LGBTQ advocates are pushing the state legislature to amend New York's hate crime law to include gender identity. Under the current state law, prosecuters can classify assault as a hate crime if it stems from the victims' sexual orientation, but crimes against transgender victims do not necessarily qualify. One of the leading advocates for reform is Carmella Etienne, 23, who was attacked in Queens in July by two men shouting anti-gay slurs and threatening to cut her throat.

Her attackers' use of homophobic slurs is being used to prosecute them under New York State’s hate crime law, but the taunts about her gender identity do not classify as a hate crime. Etienne tells the Times, "It scares me to death, what happened to me so close to home. A crime is a crime. I shouldn’t be treated any differently because of who I am." The hate crime charge could result in a minimum three-and-a-half-year sentence; had the attack not qualified as a hate crime, the potential punishment could have been drastically less.

Etienne will speak at a forum to address concerns around hate crimes tomorrow night at Queens Pride House (details here). The push for reform comes as the House of Representatives passed a measure that would expand the definition of hate crimes under federal law to include a victim’s sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.