Wednesday, President Obama signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, a bill that has been championed mainly by Democratic members of Congress for over a decade in the face of largely Republican opposition based on hideous lies from legalizing pedophilia to canceling the free exercise clause.
Somewhat lost in the celebration and remembrance of Matthew Shepard, the bill's namesake, was the story of Angie Zapata, an 18 year-old transgender woman from Greeley. She was brutally beaten to death with a fire extinguisher and left for dead just over a year ago because, as the thug who murdered confessed, "gay things must die."
“It’s not like I went up to a school teacher and shot her in the head or killed a straight, law-abiding citizen," he boasted to his girlfriend in a jailhouse-recorded phone conversation. And if he were to ever encounter a gay person in prison, he proclaimed that he would kill that "pink-shirt wearing motherfucker."
Angie Zapata did not die in vain. Her family loved her--teenage rebellious streak and all--but she was viciously taken from them at the hands of a hate-filled thug who, in his words, "killed it." Angie's killer sought her out, seduced her, and then brutally murdered her because he was looking for a transgender person to kill. And his behavior after the murder was designed to sow terror in any transgender person who would ever dare to look for a loving relationship.
Inmate number 104109 is now serving life without the possibility of parole at the Colorado State Penitentiary in Cañon City thanks to Colorado's bias-motivated crime statute. This outcome is rare. In fact, it is unique. In other states, her murder might not have been ever investigated. And if it had, her killer may have never seen the inside of a jail cell. Inmate 104109 is the first person ever convicted of an anti-transgender hate murder despite the fact that transgender people face a 1-in-12 chance of being murdered.
In a country where police mistreatment of LGBT people is so severe as to require action alerts from Amnesty International, crime against transgender people is often ignored. Some police and prosecutors view death as the price of being transgender.
Now, as a result of this long-sought law, local law enforcement will have the resources they need to prosecute crimes motivated by bias. And if they refuse to do so because of their own prejudice, the feds will be able to take jurisdiction.
- Who was Angie Zapata? Her murderer's trial didn't tell the whole story. - Westword's Melanie Asmar
- Transforming Coverage - Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting on continued problematic coverage of transgender people in the media
- 10 years later, and media still can't get it right on hate crimes - Media Matters' Karl Frisch and his own coming out story
- Disposable People - Southern Poverty Law Center report on anti-transgender violence in Washington, DC