Supporters of LGBT rights are applauding the first federal hate crime conviction involving the murder of a transgender woman in the final days of the Obama administration. But they’re also concerned about the future of such prosecutions under Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

As a U.S. Senator, Jeff Sessions called a federal hate crime law passed in 2009 “overly broad,” and said there was no need to add protections for gay and transgender people.

U.S. Sen. and Attorney General-designate Jeff Sessions in sworn in at his confirmation hearing. CREDIT SENATE.GOV

“My view is and was, a concern that it appeared that these cases were being prosecuted effectively in state courts,” said Sessions, who added that expanding hate crime protections to LGBT individuals was “unwarranted and possibly unconstitutional.”

But Sessions did make this pledge.

“A law has been passed; the Congress has spoken, you can be sure I will enforce it,” Sessions told the committee.

Joshua Vallum is to be sentenced in Mississippi  on May 15 for the slaying of 17-year-old Mercedes Williamson, who was born male but transitioned to a female. Vallum is the first person prosecuted for targeting a transgender person under the federal statute.

“This is a man who picked up a transgender teenager in Dauphin Island, Alabama [and] crossed state lines. The reason for the murder was so he wouldn’t be exposed for having this homosexual relationship,” said Joshua Jones, a Pensacola attorney who handles LGBT legal issues.

According to the FBI, between one-half and one-point-eight percent of all single-bias hate crimes from 2013 to 2015 were motivated by gender identity bias. Those numbers, says Jones, are on the rise.

“In my mind, a hate crime is one that is borne out of animus toward a particular minority group,” said Jones. “We have already seen an increase in hate crimes in the United States since January; not just with the LGBT community but also with the Muslim community and the African-American community.”

Read full original article here: Federal Hate Crime Law Protects LGBT People