Tennessee Becomes 1st Southern State With Hate Crime Protections for Transgender People

February 15, 2019 AT 7:24 AM

By Natalie Allison

Tennessee has become the first state in the South with a hate crime statute protecting transgender individuals.

State Attorney General Herbert Slatery issued an opinion Feb. 8 in response to a question posed by Rep. Mike Stewart, D-Nashville.

"A defendant who targets a person for a crime because that person is transgender has targeted the person because of his or her gender within the meaning" of the current state law that outlines sentence enhancements for hate crimes, Slatery wrote.

Tennessee does not have an explicit hate crime charge, though the General Assembly in 2000 added a hate crime factor to judges' sentencing rules for crimes targeting a person based on race, religion, color, disability, sexual orientation, national origin, ancestry or gender.

Slatery's decision affirms that transgender individuals should be covered under the existing law, but must still be tested in court in a case involving bias against a transgender victim.

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