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Indigenous Tribe Passes Hate Crime Law Protecting LGBTQ People

Crow Creek Sioux Map

"It was a long time coming," said Marlow Medicine Crow Jr., who is on the Crow Creek Tribe Law and Order Committee.

The Crow Creek Sioux Tribe has become the second tribe to adopt a hate crime law that protects LGBTQ people.

The law adopted is modeled after the Matthew Shepard Act, reports South Dakota Public Broadcasting. Signed by President Barack Obama in 2009, that law expanded existing federal hate-crime laws to include actions motivated by gender, sexual orientation, or disability.

The new Crow Creek policy means offenders will face a $1,000 fine and increased jail time in addition to any penalties from applicable federal laws.

Marlow Medicine Crow Jr., who is on the Crow Creek Tribe Law and Order Committee, told SDPB that the hate crimes amendment is the "first of its kind" for the tribe.

"It was a long time coming. There's a lot of things that go on that would necessitate that law and maybe help give more protections to them - the people that are being discriminated against," Crow Jr. said. The amendment, which passed unanimously, will likely take effect next month.

"Nobody wants their kids or families to be picked on and we're kind of a small community. Where there's a need out there the community really comes together," Crow Jr. said.

In September, the Oglala Sioux Tribe, also in South Dakota, became the first to pass a hate crimes law that included protections for LGBTQ citizens.

"Comprehensive data regarding law codes for the 573 federally recognized United States tribes is hard to come by," Mary Annette Pember reported for Indian Country Today, noting that some tribes had already expanded laws about specific crimes to include LGBTQ victims. But Pember "was unable to find any tribal law codes specifically including sexual orientation under the category of hate crimes."

Pember also pointed out that South Dakota's hate crime law does not include protections for LGBTQ people.

Monique "Muffie" Mousseau and her wife Felipa De Leon, who were instrumental in the push for the Oglala Sioux Tribe's increased protections, told SDPB that they were pleased with the Crow Creek Tribe's new policy.

"To hear that acceptance and to have them approve it unanimously, it was an awesome feeling, to know that there is that protection for the LGBT community now," De Leon said.

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