Transgender equality laws have been in the news lately, headlines by the bombshell story that North Carolina’s governor recently signed a law limiting the use of public bathrooms by transgendered people. The issue of transgender rights has long been one for debate, and the debate has not slowed as transgendered people and rights issues continue to be more widely accepted in society.
History of Transgender Rights in California
California was one of the first states to include transgendered people in their civil rights laws—the first law amending that state’s hate crime statutes to include specific mention of rights violations against transgendered people dates back to 1998. The 1998 California law also extended to transsexual people, and was widely considered broad enough to include any person who is assaulted or harassed for failing to conform to gender norms, including but not limited to: the way an individual dresses, the way an individual looks, and the way an individual speaks. At the time, California was only the third state to pass such a law, after Minnesota and New Hampshire.
Increase in Hate Crime
Despite such laws, the rate of hate crimes against individuals as a result of their sexual orientation continues to increase. Of all the hate crimes reported in 2007, for example, nearly 17 percent were those perpetrated against members of the LGBT community. So what constitutes a hate crime? Though most widely-publicized hate crimes involve serious incidents of bloody violence (in some particularly brutal cases transgendered people have been killed solely upon the discovery that they are transgendered, without a recognition of wrong-doing by the perpetrator, even as he is sentenced for the crime), other may be far more innocuous and difficult to prove in a court of law.
Where to Draw the Line
You may be charged with a hate crime simply for verbally assaulting another person. In some cases, you may not even know that the person is transgendered, or intend for the verbal assault to cause any harm—yet you could, in such an instance, be charged with a hate crime. For a verbal assault to be considered as such, a person must feel threatened for his or her life. Far more commonly labeled as hate crimes are violent incidents that result in crimes such as murder, arson, or vandalism. All that needs to be proved in order to categorize the crime as a hate crime is that is was motivated by bias. The alleged perpetrator of a hate crime will likely face longer jail time and higher fines.
If you or someone you know has been accused of a hate crime, the most important step is to seek the help of a qualified lawyer. Contact an experienced San Jose criminal defense attorney today to schedule a free, confidential consultation.