Missouri murder rekindles debate over LGBT hate crime laws

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Each year, for the past three years, LGBT advocacy groups have tallied the killings of more than 20 transgender people in the U.S. Yet state or federal hate crime laws are rarely used to prosecute the slayings.

Now many LGBT-rights groups are questioning the effectiveness of the laws, saying they sometimes focus too tightly on individual acts without addressing underlying bias or wider violence.

The issue was in the spotlight this week as Missouri authorities investigated the killing of transgender teen Ally Steinfeld, who was stabbed in the genitals and had her eyes gouged out. Authorities insist the killing was not the result of anti-transgender hate.

Even if Missouri’s hate crime law were invoked, it might not change the penalty. First-degree murder is already punishable by execution or life imprisonment.

By DAVID CRARY, AP National Writer