by LINDSAY TOSTE and PAUL GEORGE
Sen. Pat Spearman spoke before the Senate Committee on Judiciary on Monday in support of Senate Bill 139, which would make violent crimes against transgendered people a hate crime.
Spearman, who is openly gay, told a story of a hate-motivated attack she suffered when she was 21. A truck full of young white men yelled inflammatory remarks at her and threw glass at her, she said. They turned their truck around to look for her. She escaped by crawling on her belly through a ditch for seven blocks.
As currently in the books, Nevada’s hate crime law requires up to 20 years in prison for those who commit a violent crime due to a victim’s actual or perceived race, color, sexual orientation or mental disability. If passed, SB139 would specifically add gender identity or expression to the list.
Sen. Greg Brower expressed concern that such a bill would simply be symbolic. He asked Spearman if she thought the bill would be a deterrent.
“This is more than symbolic,” Spearman responded. “This is justice.”
There are those that hate so much, Spearman said, that it takes laws and statutes keep them from acting on that hate.
“A person that brings prejudice to a crime,” Spearman said, “has already decided that the victim is not human … We are humanizing a group of marginalized people.”
Lauren Scott, Executive Director of Equality Nevada, spoke before the commission to personally support the bill.
Scott told the stories of transgender people who were brutally murdered because of their gender identity. The accounts included decapitation, mutilation, gang rape and the burning of body parts.
“The right and freedom to express yourself is one of the basic tenets of this great country,” Scott wrote in a letter submitted to the committee. “And one that I served to protect.”
Scott served in the U.S. Air Force for seven years, had Top Secret clearance, and received two achievement medals and a commendation medal — she is also a transgender.
Z Shane Zaldivar, a former U.S. Marine, has identified himself as a man for eight years.
“I unfortunately don’t have enough hands to tell you how many of my personal transgender friends have been beaten, have lost their jobs, and have been hurt,” Zaldivar said, “for the mere fact that they changed who they are to reflect what’s on the inside on the outside.”
Salvador said he fears the day that someone in his community will discover he was once a woman and will retaliate.
Committee Chairman Tick Segerblom said he favored the bill, believing that it makes sense legally to have a sentence inhancer for crimes motivated by this type of hate.
After the meeting, Spearman said the bill sends a message that Nevada will not tolerate discrimination.
“I believe that those persons who are motivated by their own prejudices will understand that there are consequences for those actions,” Spearman said.
But she also believes the bill will do more than deter violent crime. It will help humanize transgender Nevadans.
“It will bring from the shadow those people who are in the margins, who are suffering because of people who are prejudice against them,” Spearman said.
“I really hope that this bill will pass,” she added.
The Senate Judicial Committee plans to vote on the bill Mar. 7. Sen. Tick Segerblom said he would like to see it on the senate floor by Mar. 25.