October 28, 2020 – Today marks the 11th anniversary of the historic signing of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. After strong advocacy from Judy and Dennis Shepard and the Human Rights Campaign, the legislation was signed into law in 2009 by the Obama-Biden administration within their first year in office, clearly demonstrating that protecting LGBTQ lives was a major priority.  To mark the anniversary, Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David issued the following statement:

“Twelve years ago, we elected a President and Vice President focused on the dignity and safety of all communities including the LGBTQ community. Within their first year in office they delivered for us and enacted the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, providing critical federal authority in combating violent, anti- LGBTQ hate crimes. Today, we are in the midst of another election and our community faces a choice between a President who dehumanizes us and does not believe in our inherent human dignity or a candidate who has stood with us, when it was popular and when it was not.

“Twenty-two years after the deaths of Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., our community remains under attack.  Thus far in 2020, 33 transgender and gender non-conforming people have lost their lives to fatal violence, including a disproportionate number of Black and Brown transgender women. The number of killings this year has set a record, but rather than provide solutions, President Trump and Vice President Pence have only inflamed the epidemic of violence with rhetoric and actions that dehumanize transgender and gender non-conforming people.  

“The fight for our community’s safety is far from over. We must replace the Trump-Pence administration and install true allies like Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to continue the progress made with the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. Joe Biden doesn’t just recognize the epidemic of violence facing the community, but has a plan to help reduce it. As President, he will pass the Equality Act, prioritize prosecutions of anti-LGBTQ hate-fueled violence, expand economic opportunities for LGBTQ people and reform our treatment of marginalized communities including LGBTQ people in our criminal justice system.”

This month, the Human Rights Campaign confirmed the United States has set a new, tragic record of fatal violence against transgender and gender non-conforming people, largely against Black and Brown transgender women, surpassing the record of 31 deaths set in 2017. This makes 2020 the deadliest year on record for transgender people. Despite this, the Trump-Pence administration has not even acknowledged the epidemic of violence. Earlier this month, Joe Biden issued the most comprehensive statement by a presidential nominee in history condemning anti-transgender violence and setting an agenda to combat and reduce violence.

The Human Rights Campaign Foundation is the educational arm of America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. HRC envisions a world where LGBTQ people are embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community.