Democratic Reps. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey introduced the Brittany Clardy Act in the House of Representatives. The proposed law would establish a new Justice Department office focused on missing and murdered Black girls and women, who often receive less attention from law enforcement and the media when compared to their white counterparts.

Omar and Watson Coleman introduced the new legislation at the 52nd Annual Legislative Conference of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation. Omar told Vice that “my message with this bill is to provide hope” to survivors of violence and victims’ families. The proposal would create a new office within the Department of Justice, led by a director reporting to the U.S. Attorney General. The new office would collect data and information on missing and murdered Black women and girls, including data on law enforcement responses to such cases. The Clardy Act would also facilitate cooperation between federal, state and local law enforcement on such issues and create a grant program to give community organizers funds for training public officials.

Omar and Watson Coleman introduced the new legislation in honor of Brittany Clardy, who, at 18, went missing in 2013. Law enforcement officials dismissed the concerns of Clardy’s family until the Minnesota teenager’s body was found two weeks later. Omar told Teen Vogue, “This bill is dedicated to the memory of Minnesotans like Brittany Clardy, and the countless other Black women who have been the victims of crimes but whose cases were initially brushed off by law enforcement.”

Rep. Watson Coleman echoed these sentiments in a post on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter. She cited statistics, “In 2020, 34% of missing females were Black, though they make up only 15% of the female population.” She added, “Their lives matter.”

As referenced in Watson Coleman’s message, Black women and girls are significantly more likely to become missing or subjected to violence, yet they often receive much less attention when compared to missing white women. Cases such as Clardy’s murder inspired Minnesota to attempt to tackle this disparity. The state launched the nation’s first task force for missing and Black girls in 2021; Minnesota had previously initiated a similar task force for Indigenous women, who also face disproportionate rates of violence against them. The 2021 task force, in turn, led to Minnesota establishing the nation’s first Office for Missing and Murdered African American Women earlier this year.

The Minnesota model is an inspiration for a new national approach to protecting and bringing justice to Black women and girls. With the continued challenges and relative media silence that Black women and girls face regarding threats to their safety, this move is a significant step in the right direction regarding treating all women and girls equally.