Iowa Senate amends hate crime bill after death of Burlington transgender teenager

Photo by David Wilson
Photo by David Wilson

Following the death of a transgender teenager in Burlington last week, the Iowa Senate passed an amendment to the state’s hate crimes statute to protect transgender individuals, adding to its wording “gender identity” and “gender expression.”

According to the Burlington Hawkeye, Kedarie Johnson, 16, was found dead of multiple gunshot wounds in an alley on Wednesday, Mar. 2. In a statement last week, Burlington Police Department Major Kramer said, “We will not speculate on the manner and cause of death until all facts from the scene and the autopsy have been reviewed.”

Iowa Public Radio reports that bill proponent Matt McCoy said Johnson was having a difficult time in school and that Burlington Community High School was working to protect Johnson, whose death took place shortly after discussion of the bill was delayed a week prior. “No one believed her life would be ended one week later,” McCoy told the Senate.

The Des Moines Register reported that discussion of the bill included an attempt by Republican Sen. Jake Chapman to add “the unborn” to the same hate crime statute. The bill eventually passed 27-21. It is not expected to pass the Republican-controlled Iowa House of Representatives.

Visitation and funeral services will be held for Johnson today beginning at 3 p.m. in the Burlington Community High School auditorium.

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