The FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office will host a conference May 18 in Atlanta to educate law enforcement about the Matthew Shepard & James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

Federal officials to host hate crimes conference in Atlanta

Shepard, a Wyoming college student, was murdered due to his sexual orientation. Byrd was dragged to death in Texas based on his race. The law, which took effect in October, adds sexual orientation, gender identity and disability to existing federal hate crimes laws.

“As a result of this landmark legislation, for the first time in our nation’s history, federal authorities have jurisdiction to prosecute violent hate crimes committed against more victims than previous allowed under federal law,” wrote Sally Yates, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, and Brian D. Lamkin, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Atlanta Division, in a letter inviting all federal, state and local law enforcement agencies in the district to attend.

“This legislation is particularly important here in Georgia since there is no comprehensive state hate crimes statute,” Yates and Lamkin wrote.

The letter was sent to the Georgia Voice by an activist who was invited to attend the conference. It was accompanied by an email from Matt Nosanchuk, senior counselor to the Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division at the U.S. Department of Justice.

“The key to successful prevention and enforcement lies in increased collaboration and communication between the covered groups, including the LGBT community, and law enforcement,” Nosanchuk wrote. “We hope that the meeting on May 18 will be a catalyst for further dialogue and partnership.”

The meeting will take place in the student center auditorium at Georgia State University. Community organizations are asked to attend from 9 a.m. until 2:30 p.m., while law enforcement personnel are scheduled from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

“We are confident that this conference will be a worthwhile first step in our efforts to ensure that we zealously protect the rights of victims of violent crime in Georgia who are targeted because of their protected status,” Yates and Lamkin wrote.