Attorney General Testifies on Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Bill at Senate Hearing
Attorney General Eric Holder testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday urging passage of the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009. Holder opened his remarks by referencing the recent shooting at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC, as evidence of continued hate crimes and the need for this legislation to finally be passed. Holder said the bill's passage is one of his "highest personal priorities."
The bill, which passed in the House in April, would allow for "federal prosecution of violence undertaken because of the actual or perceived gender, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity of any person." Under current federal hate crime laws, perpetrators can be prosecuted for violence motivated by race, color, religion, and national origin only if the crime involves a specific federal activity, such as voting or traveling across state lines.
Holder also said, "federal government has a strong interest in protecting people from violent crimes motivated by such bias and bigotry." Over the past ten years, approximately one hate crime has occurred every hour of every day. Previous versions of the bill faced various legislative roadblocks under the Bush administration: similar bills did not make it out of committee in several Congresses between 2002, when the legislation was first introduced, and 2007, when the bill finally passed the House, but was never voted on in the Senate. President Bush had indicated that he would veto the bill if it was passed by Congress.
Media Resources: Feminist Daily Newswire 4/30/2009, 9/15/1998; Statement of Eric Holder 6/25/2009
8/28/2015 Alaska Court Protects Abortion Access for Low-Income Women - The Alaska Superior Court struck down a state law yesterday that would have severely limited abortion access for low-income women in Alaska.
The state's Superior Court also struck down a Department of Health and Social Services regulation that placed narrow specifications on Medicaid coverage for abortions, requiring that Medicaid-funded abortions be determined by a physician to be "medically necessary." Last year, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood sued on behalf of the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, claiming that the narrow definition of "medically necessary" arbitrarily established conditions designed to restrict the ability of low-income women to access abortion services.
The law was temporarily blocked last July by an Alaskan state court judge.
Superior Court Judge John Suddock ordered yesterday that the state be blocked from implementing this regulation, ruling that it placed an undue burden on low-income women seeking abortion services in Alaska.
"By providing health care to all poor Alaskans except women who need abortions, the challenged regulation violates the state constitutional guarantee of 'equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law'," the ruling read.
"We applaud the superior court for striing down these cruel restrictions on women's health and rights that violate the Alaska Constitution," said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. . . .
8/26/2015 Saudi Women Prepare to Vote for the First Time - The fight for gender equality is making slow but notable progress in Saudi Arabia, where women will be allowed to vote for the first time in upcoming December elections.
This shift in Saudi law came in 2011, when a royal decree announced that women would be allowed to vote and run in local elections beginning in December of 2015. . . .