Federal Sentencing Guidelines Amended to Include Gender Identity

The U.S. Sentencing Commission recently adopted changes to the federal sentencing guidelines to permit crimes in which the victim is intentionally selected on the basis of gender identity to be eligible for sentencing enhancements.

The federal sentencing guidelines are rules that set out a uniform policy for sentencing people convicted of felonies and Class A misdemeanors in federal courts.  The new rule will apply to every federal crime and is designed to align federal guidelines with the recently enacted hate crime law, the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which authorizes the federal government to investigate and prosecute bias-motivated crimes based on the victim’s actual or perceived race, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or disability. 

Many civil and human rights organizations supported the proposed changes, including Human Rights Campaign, the Anti-Defamation League, and The Leadership Conference.  “This is the first time gender identity has been included in the sentencing guidelines – and another ancillary benefit of enactment of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act,”  said Michael Lieberman, Washington counsel for the Anti-Defamation League.

The commission has submitted the changes to Congress and if Congress doesn’t disapprove them before November 1, they will go into effect.