A documentary short film by Jason Cohen


Discussion Guide

While the assault on Matthew was motivated by hate, had it been reported, it would not have been treated as a “hate crime” because that did not become a legal category until 2009. The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act was passed in 2009 after the brutal and premeditated murder of Matthew Shepard in Wyoming for his sexual orientation. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, a hate crime is “the violence of intolerance and bigotry, intended to hurt and intimidate someone because of their race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, or disability.”

The impact of hate crimes reaches well beyond the targeted victims, traumatizing and terrorizing members of the victims’ communities and can lead to intergroup violence and deep divisions within communities. Because the nature of these transgressions are far-reaching and devastating to individuals and communities, hate crime laws call for enhanced penalties for those convicted of bias-motivated crimes.

Although federal legislation is in place, state statutes bring additional attention to the special nature of hate crimes. However, not all states have a hate crime statute and state laws vary across the country in their inclusion of sexual orientation or gender identity.

For a map indicating State Hate Crime Statutes in the United States, visit: http://archive.adl.org/learn/hate_crimes_laws/map_frameset.html

Also visit the Southern Poverty Law Center to learn more:

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