In the wake of the June 12 mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando that left 49 dead and more than 50 others wounded, U.S. Attorney Kenyen Brown met with members of Mobile’s LGBTQ community as a reminder of “federal law enforcement’s commitment to protecting the civil rights of all persons.”“The U.S. Attorney’s office brings prosecutions and enforces civil rights laws to protect all residents of our region, including members of the LGBTQ community,” Brown said. “We are working closely with leaders of LGBTQ organizations to ensure the security of individuals or groups who may be potential targets of hate crimes.”
The shooting in Orlando, which targeted the Pulse nightclub, was perpetrated by Florida resident Omar Mateen, and almost immediately, federal investigators and President Barack Obama classified the shooting as both an act of terrorism and a hate crime against those in the homosexual community.
In this week’s meeting, Brown discussed the existing protections that have been afforded by federal hate crime laws, and specifically went into detail about the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009, which, among other things, enacted stricter punishments for violent acts based on a victim’s sexual orientation.
Brown also went over where and how to report potential hate crimes to federal authorities.
“Hate crimes are a top investigative priority of the FBI’s Civil Rights Program because of the devastating effect they can have on entire communities,” FBI Special Agent Robert Lasky said. “While the FBI in Southern Alabama is working daily with our law enforcement partners to protect against acts of terrorism, individuals who threaten or commit acts of violence motivated by animus towards others due to their lifestyle, religion, national origin or gender will be investigated to the fullest extent of the law.”
At the meeting were Rev. Sara Sills of Cornerstone Metropolitan Community Church; Cari Searcy, of Equality Alabama; Lane Galbraith, an LGBTQ rights advocate and activist and; Kimberly McKeand and Lanita Kharal, who work with AIDS Alabama South.
“With the unthinkable and horrific murders of our fellow Americans in Orlando, AIDS Alabama South remembers the precious people who were taken, injured and targeted by a mind fermented in hate and lacking any shred of humanity or compassion for life,” Kharal said. “Each of them were special and unique and will leave an unending void for their loved ones. We pray for peace, love and light for each person affected by this tragedy and for healing of our country.”Searcy, who is married to McKeand, were the couple whose lawsuit led to Alabama’s ban on same-sex marriage being struck down in federal court last year. Though the United States Supreme Court has since expanded marriage equality to all 50 states, Searcy said the meeting with Brown’s office was “reassuring” in light of the Orlando shooting.
“Now more than ever, it is important for the LGBTQ community to feel that we are equally supported and protected under the law,” Searcy said. “It is reassuring to know that the US Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of Alabama is listening to our concerns and is committed to protecting the civil rights of all Alabamians.”
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