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Nevada Senate approves bill to add gender identity to hate crimes law

Thursday, March 21, 2013
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CARSON CITY, Nev. — People who commit crimes against others because of their gender identity, appearance or expression would be subject to enhanced penalties under a bill passed Thursday by the Nevada Senate.

Minutes before the Senate voted 20-1 in favor of the bill, Sen. Patricia Spearman, a gay minister and a primary sponsor of SB139, called it a “very special day.”

Spearman, D-North Las Vegas, said there have been times in history when things have happened “that do not adequately express who we are as children of God.”

She noted discrimination she and others have suffered because of sexual orientation, race or religion and proclaimed, “Today we make those wrongs right.”

The measure now goes to the Assembly.

A similar bill that sought to designate crimes against transgender people as hate crimes died in the Senate two years ago on an 11-10 vote when former Sen. John Lee, whom Spearman defeated in last year’s Democratic pri mary, sided with the Republican minority.

The lone “no” vote Thursday came from Sen. Joe Hardy, R-Boulder City, but other Republicans who voted against the measure in 2011 supported it this time. With 16 sponsors in the Senate and 20 in the Assembly, the bills’ passage appears likely.

SB139 defines gender identity or expression as “the gender-related identity, appearance, expression or behavior of a person, regardless of a person’s assigned sex at birth.”

It adds “gender identity or expression” to Nevada’s hate crime statue, alongside other crimes manifested by evidence of prejudice based on race, color, national origin, physical or mental disability and sexual orientation.

If convicted of a crime motivated by hate, defendants can face up to 20 years in prison in addition to penalties for the crime itself.

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