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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Dear Decision-maker,

We the under-signed support an inclusive federal hate crimes bill (HR 1913) because we think it is good for the community to take seriously crimes such as the brutal murder of Angie Zapata in Colorado this past year. Reflecting upon the past weeks of Allen Andrade’s court trial, we are grateful for responsible investigators, prosecutors, and a jury who invalidated a harmful and re-victimizing “trans-panic” defense. No one is responsible for their own beating, bashing or killing. When some people are especially targeted for being different or for being queer, it makes sense that the community will act to especially protect them.

We wish that such a law could have protected Angie before her death. But in reality a great number of supports in a community are needed to reduce our vulnerability – namely, social and economic justice for all.

The ‘guilty’ verdict reached in a court of law dignified, but could never repair, the value of Angie’s life and the gravity of her loss. Yet, our experience in ministries that work toward nonviolent alternatives, reintegration and rehabilitation of offenders does not allow us to believe we can achieve safety by disposing of people behind bars. They are still with us. They are still part of us. We will be praying for the gay men and transgender inmates who face violence while they serve their time, who may even be serving their time in the same facilities as Allen Andrade. We will be praying for Allen as well, now cut off from the prospect of wholeness and reintegration with his community.

We who lead faith traditions hold to a story of justice that does not end with retribution, but rather with restoration. In the struggle against violence and deprivation, we applaud not only the work of the National Center for Transgender Equality to raise specific issues like hate crimes law, but also the work of Senator Webb (S.714) in raising a commission to address a general issue: criminal justice reform. It is high time.

We support legislation today that honors human dignity and possibility. Diversity is a fact of God’s creation -- except for poverty, which is our own creation. Where there is personal or systemic hate and disregard, we urge lawmakers to respond. Not only with indignation but with moral imagination.


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