Stop the Hate, (10 October 1999) Los Angeles, CA

Speech Text

[1] As the Congressperson said – the reason the act hasn’t passed is because for the first time the Hate Crimes Protection Act will include Sexual Orientation language. This act is much broader than the current one. Today the law only applies if you are attending to federal business, such as going to vote.


[2] As Constituency Groups: We must form a powerful movement to stop the hate. Pride At Work is an AFL-CIO Constituency Group that cuts across the targets of the hate groups. We are African-Americans, Latinas, Latinos, Asian Pacific Islanders, Native Americans, Jewish, Transgendered, Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals. From the murders of Matthew Shepard in Wyoming to the brutal murder of James Byrd, an African American in Texas, to the burnings of synagogues in Sacramento, to the shooting up of a Jewish Day Care in Los Angeles, to the shooting of a postal workerJoseph Ilteobecause he was Filipino, Hate Crimes are on the Rise (in the gay community alone, they have increased more than 8% in the last year & we all know, most go unreported).

[3] Without federal legislation, we have no way to accurately track hate crimes.

[4] We must educate our communities and in our unions, that all these hate crimes are linked and the targets of those hate groups that perpetuate the ideology of hate are always the same: People of Color, Jewish People and lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people. The latest murderer Buford Furrow subscribed to the philosophy of a neo-Nazi group that in their own wordssets out to “kill Jews, non-whites and homosexuals.”

[5] Unfortunately, many times hate crimes are separated outseen as isolated acts occurring only against this group or that. But, our enemies certainly understand the connection and we must too. Let us remember that the neo-Nazi brothers who set fire to the synagogues in Sacramento also killed a gay couple in their home a few miles North of that City. These same 2 men are also being investigated for setting fire to a Sacramento abortion clinic. We must understand that while immediately after outrageous hate crimes acts there is an outpouring of sentiment against hate crimes. And yet, then what happens? A few short months after the murder of Matthew Shepard, the Wyoming legislature failed to pass that State’s first hate crimes law. But this didn’t just happen in so-called backward Wyoming. New York State has refused to pass a hate crimes bill for lesbians and gays as well.

[6] This dangerous trend must be stopped! We must see hate crimes for what they area form of domestic terrorism. We know it is, of course, true that a law alone will not stop hate crimes from happening. However, the law can help change the climate of this country, when some people feel it is o.k. to target specific groups of people and get away with it. The labor movement, through the work of its Constituency Groups, must be in the forefront of building coalitions to ensure that the slogan “not in our town” becomes a mass rallying cry of “not in our Nation.” As we participate in building powerful coalitions against Hate Crimes, we aid our organizing efforts since we are showing in the broader communities that the labor movement is a powerful ally v. racism, sexism and homophobia. Our actions – more than any words – will bring a powerful message to the millions of unorganized workers that we are the movement where they belong. Make no mistake, hate crimes don’t just fall from the sky. They are fed by both the Christian right-wing and politicians who foster wedge political initiatives that seek to divide people, to make one group or another less than human, to say it is o.k. to go after these people or those. In California, where we often rule by the initiative process, the far right first attacked women and people of color with the outlawing of affirmative action; then it was the immigration population with Proposition 187 and now it is the Knight Initiative. This initiative is sponsored by State Legislator Pete Knight whoby the wayhas a zero percent record on labor issues.

[7] What is the Knight Initiative? Simply put: it defines marriage as only between one man and one woman and it forbids the State of California from recognizing same sex marriage that might occur in any other states. It is on its face totally absurd since no state recognizes same sex marriage anyway. However, we must see this for what it really is: the opening shot to roll back any anti-discrimination protections on the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender population.

[8] It is brought to us by the same type of people who brought down affirmative action; attacked immigrants and then targeted the Union movement with Proposition 226. Furthermore, this group has already drafted another ballot initiative for November 2000 (the Knight Initiative is on the March 2000 ballot) called the California Defense of Sexual Responsibility Act of 2000. The Act would outlaw the use of the words “sexual orientation” in any law or rule in any state, county or local ordinances. This could eliminate our hard won domestic partner benefits and as such, it is critical to all people both gay and straight!!!

[9] In conclusion, we must build a mass movement like we did in the Civil Rights Movement, in the Women’s Movement and in the fight to end the war in Vietnam. We must mobilize masses of people in the streets, into the State Legislatures and into all our municipal government bodies. Our message must be loud and clear: No More Hate In Our Country and that an injury to one is an injury to all!