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Holder Says Rights Apply To All

Victims of bullies and those picked on because they’re gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered have federal law on their side. KERA’s Bill Zeeble reports that was one of the messages at a university conference that featured the U.S. Attorney General.

Hundreds of educators, students and community leaders gathered for a day-long conference at UT Arlington. They focused on safer schools and communities. In particular, they looked at improving life for some all-too-frequent victims; gays,lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered – often referred to as the LGBT community. Attorney General Eric Holder gave the keynote speech, saying basic rights apply to all.

Holder: No one deserves to be bullied, harassed or victimized because of who they are, how they worship or – and hear what I say now – who they love.

Under the Obama administration, Holder said the Department of Justice has worked to ensure the rights of hate crime victims. He said that’s why the President signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act in 2009. James Byrd Jr. was a Black man dragged to death because of his color. Matthew Shepard was murdered because he was gay. Shepard’s mother Judy says her son would be pleased the community here is working together.

Shepard: When Matt was killed in ’98 we weren’t even talking about these issues in public. And now it’s all over the place. I think it’s really important, now that it’s public, that it’s a dialogue between everybody. It’s a giant step forward that somebody’s in the White House supports the community.

Shepard says it’s taken awhile for people to understand the hate crimes law is a civil rights law.

Bill Zeeble has been a full-time reporter at KERA since 1992, covering everything from medicine to the Mavericks and education to environmental issues.