Proposal adds transgender people to hate crime law

Elvira Diaz pleaded with lawmakers Monday to do what their predecessors from the 2011 Legislature didn't and recognize crimes motivated by gender identity as hate crimes.

She wasn't asking for herself, but for her 8-year-old son, Christian Arroyo, who was born as a girl but identifies as a boy.

"When you are a mother you want to leave your kids the best thing, and if I can leave to him the privilege to have life, to be free and safe and to live a successful life, that's what I want," Diaz told the Senate Judiciary Committee, with Christian sitting in her lap.

Arroyo smiled through most of the testimony, but the biggest smile came when Sen. Ruben Kihuen, D-Las Vegas, told him he could be governor one day.

"This is a happy kid. He wants a happy life and to be loved and not afraid," Diaz said. "We're all the same -we're all kids of God - and we should support love and not hate and I want for you to pass this bill."

Senate Bill 139 was presented by Sen. Pat Spearman, D-North Las Vegas, with a roomful of supporters in attendance. No one spoke against the bill.

It strikes a vein that goes deeper than just acknowledging someone's right to choose their identity, she told the committee.

"This is more than symbolism, this is justice," said Spearman, who is gay.

The measure adds "gender identity or expression" to Nevada's hate crime statute. If convicted of a crime motivated by hate, individuals can face up to 20 years in prison for the motivation on top of the penalties for the crime itself.

SB139 defines gender identity or expression as "the gender-related identity, appearance, expression or behavior of a person, regardless of the person's assigned sex at birth."

It's the same as SB180 that Sen. David Parks, D-Las Vegas, championed in the 2011 Legislature before it failed in the Senate. Parks, who is gay, is also a primary sponsor for SB139.

"I personally don't have enough hands to tell you how many of my transgender friends have been beaten or lost their jobs," Z Shane Zaldivar, a storage facility manager from Sparks and ex-Marine, told committee members. "The only fear I have is there's going to be a day when the wrong person figures out I'm not who they think I am."

Passing the bill would send a message to hateful people, said Zaldivar, who is transgender.

"The enhanced penalties would let them know it's not OK and it would not be allowed," he said of violence against transgender people.

With 16 sponsors in the Senate and 20 more in the Assembly, the measure is practically assured to fare better than its 2011 counterpart. The governor's office says Gov. Brian Sandoval would not decide whether to sign the bill until the final version reaches his desk.

Sen. Tick Segerblom, chairman of the committee, delayed a vote on the bill so members could evaluate a proposed amendment Thursday. They are expected to advance the measure.

"I think you're going to find a lot of support this year," Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, told supporters during the meeting. "This bill is going to pass."


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