Sessions comments on DOJ’s role in transgender hate crimes

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Speaking at a hate crime summit in Washington Thursday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions vowed to enforce hate crime laws against attacks on transgender people.

“We have and will continue to enforce hate crime laws aggressively and appropriately where transgendered individuals are victims,” Sessions said.

Sessions met with the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and laid out a plan whereby the DOJ will work in tandem with the US attorney’s offices and FBI “to identify ways the department can support the state and local law enforcement authorities investigating these incidents and to determine whether federal action would be appropriate.”

Hate crimes against transgenders have come to a head recently, as Joshua Brandon Vallum was convicted last month and sentenced to 49 years in prison for the murder of transgender Mercedes Williamson in 2015, whom he’d previously dated.

Vanita Gupta, former head of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, brought charges against Vallum under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

“This is the first case prosecuted under the Hate Crimes Prevention Act involving the murder of a transgender person,” Sessions said.

New federal data reveal a majority of transgender hate crimes go unreported, and the Human Rights Campaign report 14 transgenders have been fatally shot or killed by other means.

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