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Major gay organization rallies behind Attorney General nominee Holder

by Nick Cargo

As the Senate considers his confirmation, the nation's largest LGBT civil rights organization has put its voice behind Eric Holder Jr. as the nation's next Attorney General.

"As a community that is particularly vulnerable to bias-motivated violence," Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese wrote to the Senate on Tuesday, "the LGBT community supports the appointment of an Attorney General who is committed to combating this national problem."

"The LGBT community can ill afford a Department of Justice headed by anything less than a competent and effective Attorney General," a recent statement of support reads. With politicization of departmental activities and focus shifting away from bias-motivated crimes in recent years, the Department of Justice needs a leader that can retrain the justice system and restore morale among those within the Department to help create a more just society for the LGBT community, it continues. "No longer," the statement says, "can citizens count on the DOJ to rigorously and impartially enforce the law."

Holder promised on Thursday, during his confirmation hearing, to perform a "damage assessment" on the effects politics had on hiring and operations in the Department during its time under former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. He also vowed to devote more resources to prosecuting civil rights violations.

Measures the Justice Department needs to take to improve the lives of LGBT citizens, HRC goes on, include support for hate crimes laws, inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity in employment non-discrimination laws, enforcing and collecting data on federal hate crimes laws, actively investigating police misconduct, protecting LGBT inmates and establishing guidelines for LGBT asylum seekers. "Eric Holder has demonstrated that he will...exhibit leadership on these issues," HRC states.

In August 1999, on the heels of the bias-motivated killing of Matthew Shepard, Holder addressed the House Judiciary Committee in support of the Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 1999, seeking to correct the "deficiency" that existed in not covering violent crimes perpetrated based on a victim's sexual orientation, gender or disasbility. "We are all horrified at the brutal murders of Billy Jack Gaither in Alabama, Matthew Shepard in Wyoming and James Byrd in Jasper, Texas," he said. "These crimes, and others around the country, are not just a law enforcement problem. They are a problem for our schools, our religious institutions, our civic organizations and also for our national leaders...When we pool our expertise, experiences and resources together, we can help build communities that are safer, stronger and more tolerant."

"We urge the Senate to promptly fulfill its Constitutional duty and swiftly confirm Eric Holder," Solmonese closed. "This nation needs an Attorney General that is a committed advocate for justice for all Americans, regardless of who they are."


Originally published on Thursday January 15, 2009.

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