Thursday, September 27, 2007

Matthew Shepard Act

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In a few days the US senate will be voting on the Matthew Shepard Act. The act, if passed through the Senate will add sexual orientation to the federal hate crimes laws as a protected category.

This act will strengthen federal laws in three ways:
1) expand the law to authorize the department of justice to investigate and prosecute certain bias-motivated crimes based on the victims actual or perceived sexual orientation gender, gender identity or disability current laws only includes race, colour, religion or national origin
2) eliminate a serious limitation of federal involvement under existing law which requires that a victim of a bias-motivated crime was attacked because he/she was engaged in a specified federally protected activity such as voting, serving on a jury or attending school
3)add gender and gender identity to the hate crimes statistics act

For those who don't know who Matthew Shepard is, please view the video about. Matthew Shepard was a 21 year old gay boy who was attacked by two other young men because of his sexuality. The end result was his tragic death. At the age of 21 most young men are enjoying life, doing their post-secondary education and feeling free to do anything. Matthew never had the opportunity to enjoy his young adult life. His parents and friends will never get the opportunity to see he come have become in his later years.

Like most of us growing up and dealing with our sexuality. One of the most frighten things that we all tried to avoid is being attacked as a result of our sexual orientation. But imagine haven't no laws to protect you. Imagine feeling like your country is saying that it's okay to commit a criminal offence against you because sexual orientation isn't cover under the hate crimes laws. Imagine being 21 and not straight. Would you feel protected, would anyone at any age feel protected? I certainly wouldn't.