News (USA)

Nevada lawmakers consider adding gender identity to hate crime statute

CARSON CITY, Nev. — Lawmakers are considering a measure to include transgender persons to the list of protected identities in Nevada’s hate crime statute.

State Sen. Pat Spearman (D-North Las Vegas) presented the measure, SB139, to the Senate judiciary committee on Monday with a roomful of supporters in attendance, and an overflow crowd that spilled into a room down the hall. No one spoke against the bill.

The bill adds gender identity or expression to the list of race, color, religion, national origin, physical or mental disability and sexual orientation. If a jury finds a crime was motivated by one of these qualifiers, the offender faces an additional charge carrying the possibility of 20 years in prison.

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

Spearman says increasing the severity of penalties for attacks on transgender persons will curb some of the often gruesome violence against people of that identity.

“I personally don’t have enough hands to tell you how many of my transgender friends have been beaten or lost their jobs,” Z Shane Zaldivar, a storage facility manager from Sparks and ex-Marine, told committee members. “The only fear I have is there’s going to be a day when the wrong person figures out I’m not who they think I am.”

Passing the bill would send a message to hateful people, said Zaldivar, who is transgender.

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“The enhanced penalties would let them know it’s not OK and it would not be allowed,” he said of violence against transgender people.

With 16 sponsors in the Senate and 20 more in the Assembly, the measure is practically assured to fare better than its 2011 counterpart. The governor’s office says Gov. Brian Sandoval would not decide whether to sign the bill until the final version reaches his desk.

Sen. Tick Segerblom, chairman of the committee, delayed a vote on the bill so members could evaluate a proposed amendment Thursday. They are expected to advance the measure.

“I think you’re going to find a lot of support this year,” Segerblom (D-Las Vegas), told supporters during the meeting. “This bill is going to pass.”

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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