Biden Stands With LGBTQ Community While Americans Face a 70% Rise in Hate Crimes

Twenty-five years after the horrific killing of gay college student Matthew Shepard, President Biden has spoken out in Shepard’s memory. Have LGBTQ+ hate crimes increased despite activist efforts?

Creating Hope From Loss

In a statement released on Thursday, Biden said, “Matthew’s tragic and senseless murder shook the conscience of the American people.”

In the wake of the tragedy, Shepard’s parents, Judy and Dennis Shepard of Wyoming, started the Matthew Shepard Foundation, an organization aimed at reducing and preventing hate crimes against the LGBTQ+ community.

Biden’s Push for the Equality Act

Biden’s statement went on to address the ongoing threats of violence toward LGBTQ+ Americans. Promoting the Equality Act, he urged Congress to push the bill forward to help protect queer rights in the United States. 

The Equality Act would cement rights for LGBTQ+ people to protect them in areas of “employment, housing, credit, education, public spaces and services, federally funded programs, and jury service.” 

Amending Existing Protections

The Equality Act is intended to modify the Civil Rights Act of 1964, among other laws, to include LGBTQ+ Americans in federal protections. The aim is to reduce instances of discrimination against LGBTQ+ people in many areas of life.

During his time as Obama’s Vice President, Biden worked on the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act in 2009. This act federally criminalized hate crimes against people for religion, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, or disability.

Victims Become Faces of a Movement

Matthew Shepard was honored in name with this act in conjunction with James Byrd, Jr., who was a Black man killed in a violent, racially motivated hate crime in 1998.

Last Year’s Summit Aimed to Heal the Divide

In 2022, the White House held the United We Stand Summit, where President Biden honored Judy and Dennis Shepard as “Uniters.” According to the statement, “Uniters” are “Americans who stand against hate and heal our divides.”

The Summit was held to discuss rising hate crimes in the United States. Biden assembled Judy and Dennis Shepard, among other guests working against hate crimes, to discuss a way to move forward as a country united against violence.

Hate Crime Rates Continue to Rise

According to the FBI, the LGBTQ+ community and Asian communities have seen the largest rise in hate crimes in recent years. From 2020 to 2021, anti-LGBTQ+ hate crimes rose by 70%.

Between 2022 and 2023, drag events have been a popular target in media and conservative politics. Drag performers were also the “most frequent target of anti-LGBTQ+ hate and extremism incidents” during that time, according to a report by ADL and GLAAD.

Homeland Security Reports Specific Groups at Risk

Earlier this year, the Department of Homeland Security released a briefing that warned against the increasing threats to the LGBTQ+ community. DHS said the threats were specifically aimed at “drag-themed events, gender-affirming care, and LGBTQIA+ curricula in schools.”

LGBTQ+ activists have noted that the massive increase in anti-LGBTQ+ laws in the past year has had a profound effect on the lives of queer Americans. 

The Road Ahead 

As Biden continued in his statement, he acknowledged that there is still a great deal of work to be done. “No American should face hate or violence for what they are or who they love,” he said.

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