Hate crimes in Texas are defined under the Texas Hate Crimes Act, as offenses that are motivated by prejudice, hatred, or advocacy of violence against victims due to a number of factors including the victim’s race, religion or sexual orientation.
Now a group of House members have considered legislation that would widen these crimes to include transgender people, reports the Texas Tribune.
Transgender people have been in the headlines recently due to the publicity around former Olympic athlete and reality TV star Bruce Jenner who recently gave an interview to describe how he is transitioning to become a woman.
This month, according to the Texas Tribune, a group of House members has looked into legislation “aimed at protecting gay and transgender people by repealing a now-defunct anti-sodomy law and extending hate crime protections.”
However, there has been no vote on a bill as yet.
Under state law judges in Texas in certain criminal cases are directed to determine whether a crime was committed because of the perpetrator’s prejudice against the victim’s “race, color, disability, religion, national origin or ancestry, age, gender, or sexual preference.”
Coleman said transgender people faced attacks because they are misunderstood. He told the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee transgender people are 28 times more likely to be subjected to physical violence than others.
If you are charged with a hate crime you could receive a very stiff sentence. Under Texas law, when a crime is found to be motivated by prejudice against the victim, the punishment is automatically increased. Judges also have the option to order perpetrators of hate crimes to attend programs to learn tolerance and acceptance.
The Tribune reported on how Coleman’s measure was supported by Gregory Abbink, the city of Austin’s first openly transgender police officer.
“Transgender is not an illness,” he stated, but a description given to people who were “born in the wrong body.”
The House members also drew up measures to remove an outdated section of state code that criminalizes homosexual conduct. The law that has been ineffective and inoperative since it was struck down by a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2003.
Previously, same-sex intercourse was a Class C misdemeanor in Texas, punishable by a fine of up to $500, until the court found the law unconstitutional. Texas was one of a dozen states that retained anti-sodomy laws on the books despite the ruling.
Coleman told the committee the continued presence of an outdated anti-sodomy law created confusion. Two bills would repeal the law as well as a provision requiring certain types of sexual education materials to contain language that says homosexuality is “not an acceptable lifestyle.”
Hates crimes are a complex area of the law and it can be difficult for law enforcement officers to determine whether a hate crime has been committed. It’s important to hire seasoned criminal defense attorneys if you have been charged with a hate crime.