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Nevada Lawmakers Advance Transgender Hate Crimes Bill

by Michael K. Lavers
National News Editor
Thursday Mar 17, 2011

Nevada lawmakers voted on Thursday, March 17, to advance a bill that would add gender identity and expression to the state's hate crimes law.

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 4-3 in favor of Senate Bill 180. State Sens. Valerie Wiener (D-Las Vegas), Allison Copening (D-Las Vegas), Ruben Kihuen (D-Las Vegas) and Shirley A. Breeden (D-North Las Vegas) supported the measure; state Sens. Dan Gustavson (R-Sparks), Mike McGinness (R-Fallon) and Michael Roberson (R-Las Vegas) opposed it.

The vote took place a little more than a week after committee members heard testimony from SB 180 supporters and opponents.

"One of the hardest things when you find out you have a transgender child is seeing the statistics that your child can be [a victim] of a hate crime," said Reno resident Elvira Diaz as she testified alongside her son Jesse on Wednesday, March 9. "I want to do all my efforts to stop hate of any kind. This is a country of freedom. God made us all the same."

Twelve states and the District of Columbia currently have trans-inclusive hate crimes statutes on the books.

State Sen. David Parks [D-Las Vegas] introduced SB 180, but some activists expressed concern over the measure because it contained a death penalty provision.

Committee members removed it before they passed the measure, but Lauren Scott of Equality Nevada told legislators that SB 180 would put Nevada on par with neighboring states that have adopted trans-inclusive hate crimes laws. "It would send a clear message that in Nevada; we will no longer accept the bigotry, hatred and brutal violence that is targeted towards persons who exhibit a wide range of gender identity or expression," she said.

Lawmakers are scheduled to debate other trans-specific bills in the current legislative session. This includes a measure that would ban discrimination based on a person's gender identity or expression.

Governor Brian Sandoval has not indicated whether he would sign a hate crimes bill into law. He did, however, co-sponsor the original measure as an assemblymember in the 1990s. Michael Ginsburg of the Progressive Leadership of Nevada told EDGE he expects the Legislature will vote on SB 180 sometime next month after lawmakers resolve the budget and redistricting.

"As always, we at Stonewall are hopeful with the leadership of Senator David Parks and others, we will get the votes needed," added Derek Washington, chair of the Stonewall Democratic Club of Southern Nevada.

Based in Washington, D.C., Michael K. Lavers has appeared in the New York Times, BBC, WNYC, Huffington Post, Village Voice, Advocate and other mainstream and LGBT media outlets. He is an unapologetic political junkie who thoroughly enjoys living inside the Beltway.


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