On September 19, NQAPIA joined a standing room only audience (which spilled over into an overflow room) to witness the Senate Hearing on Hate Crimes and Domestic Extremism. The hearing focused on hate crimes, particularly in the aftermath of the devastating shooting of a Sikh gurdwara (temple) in Oak Creek, WI.
NQAPIA submitted testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, which will now be included in the proceedings from the Hearing. The testimony is below.
Included as part of its testimony is the joint statement of solidarity from the LGBT community that NQAPIA drafted and was signed by over 30 national and local LGBT organizations from around the country.
Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights
815 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Re: Hearing, September 19, 2012, Hate Crimes and the Threat of Domestic Extremism
Dear Subcommittee Members:
The National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA) applauds the Subcommittee on holding today’s hearing on this very important topic. Events around the country and abroad have put these issues of intolerance and extremism at the top of the news, and we think it is important to call for reasoned voices and non-violence to address the issues of the day. As a federation of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) Asian American, South Asian, Southeast Asian, and Pacific Islander (AAPI) organizations, we know the impact of violence in our communities because we are subject to the intersections of racism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, and anti-religious sentiment.
The unconscionable rise of violence in recent months that has devastated our communities has made these intersections and their impacts real for NQAPIA and the communities we serve. The South Asian LGBT organizations we work with tell us all too real stories about discrimination and bigotry they face, not only because of the color of their skin and their religious traditions, but also because of how they live their lives as LGBT people in their families and communities. Our work with faith partners such as the Queer Muslim Working Group reveals the impact that not only anti-Muslim sentiment from religious fundamentalists has on our communities, but the impact of homophobia and transphobia as well.
NQAPIA drafted an LGBT sign-on letter that over 30 local and national organizations joined in solidarity with the victims of the August 5 shooting at the Sikh gurdwara in Oak Creek, WI and the August 6 fire at a mosque in Joplin, MO to specifically articulate the impact that such violence has on us as LGBT communities (that letter is included here as part of our statement of record). The debates around extremism and violence only became more fraught with urgency when a gunman shot at the Family Research Council a few short days later and we joined another statement from the LGBT community to oppose violence as a means of resolving differences.
Hate crimes continue to be a serious problem. Recent FBI statistics that document over 6,600 hate crimes may actually be undercounting the severity of the problem. A 2005 study by the Bureau of Justice Statistics suggests that the actual figures may be as high as 15 times what is being reported. The domestic extremism that opens up the political and cultural space to somehow rationalize violence and hate crimes has no place in our communities. We know that religious freedom and First Amendment protections are not mutually exclusive and that both can and must be held in balance to ensure our civil liberties.
Violent acts that target people for the characteristics that make them different defy the pluralism that makes America thrive. The intersections of hate violence and domestic extremism are complex and we commend you for taking this on. They encompass a range of issues related to homophobia, xenophobia, and anti-religious sentiment both locally, and in an international context. We urge the Committee to make findings on the causes of and solutions to this violence and to take action to prevent hate before it is too late to act. The times that we live in demand solutions that think big and refuse to oversimplify and we stand ready to work with you to create and implement those solutions.
Ben de Guzman
Co-Director for Programs
National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance