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Adam Thompson on January 17, 2008 - 7:13am
With only 10 dissenting votes, the New Jersey Legislature has made the state's hate crimes and anti-bullying laws two of the strongest in the country. S2975 is notable for its unequivocal inclusion of transgender people in the state's hate crimes law, becoming the 12th state to do so, and for stronger anti-bullying measures in its safe schools law.
The measure was hailed by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force which compared the state-level progress with Congress's refusal in 2007 to include transgender people in the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. In addition to adding transgender to the state's hate crimes law, the New Jersey measure requires at least two hours of training on hate crimes for all new police officers, requires schools to post and distribute their anti-bullying policies, creates a commission to study bullying in the state's schools and to make recommendations to a future legislature, and provides judges with additional penalty options for defendants convicted of hate crimes, such as anti-hate sensitivity training.
Legislation to strengthen hate crimes laws and include transgender people in anti-discrimination laws are being pursued in several states across the country, including Utah and Oklahoma. Scottsdale, Arizona, also made news by extending workplace protections to gays, lesbians, bisexuals and trangender city employees. Of course, these laws are greeted with heavy resistance from conservative groups. Conservatives in California tried but failed to gather signatures to launch a ballot initiative to block a new new law extending anti-discrimination protections to public-school students based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.