Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Meanwhile, in our nation's capital ...

Senate Hate Crimes Bill Update

From the Episcopal Public Policy Network:

The Senate could take action at any time on the Matthew Shepard Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act (S. 1105), sponsored by Senators Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and Gordon Smith (R-OR) with 42 co- sponsors .

This bi-partisan legislation, which passed in the House in May, will expand current hate crimes law to include crimes based on race, religion, national origin, disability, gender, gender identity and sexual orientation. It will also help local authorities investigate and prosecute bias-motivated crimes. According to the latest FBI figures, in 2005 there were 7,163 hate crimes in the United States. These crimes—motivated by fear and hatred of others—are directed at communities as much as they are directed at the victim because of who they are.

These divisive and destructive crimes contradict our Baptismal Covenant pledge to "respect the dignity of every human being."

In a recent letter to Senators in support of S. 1105, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori wrote:

"The Episcopal Church has long been an advocate of combating hate in our society. No person or group of people should be the target of violence simply because of race, gender, religion, disability, national origin, sexuality or perceived sexual orientation."

In the many years since the death of Matthew Shepard, Congress has passed similar bills but none have ever had as much chance to reach the President’s desk as this one does right now. Help send the Matthew Shepard bill to the Presidents desk – contact your Senator today.

Troop Reduction Legislation Poll
From my representative's (Adam Schiff) weekly email:

Last week's Survey Results: Last week, the House passed a measure to "require the Secretary of Defense to commence the reduction of the number of United States armed forces in Iraq to a limited presence by April 1, 2008." Should the Senate pass the same measure and should the President sign it into law?

Yes -- 69.97%
No -- 25.89%
I don't know --4.14%


RonF said...

I'm basically trying to understand what the justification is for hate crimes are in the first place. Consider what happened to Matthew Shepard. Even without a hate crime statute, the perpetrators were eligible for what effectively was life in prison. What difference would passing this act have on that? Why is this needed?

Suzer said...

In addition to Susan's response in an above post, another reason hate crimes bills are passed is often to get the appropriate assistance to law enforcement authorities. In the case of Brandon Teena (dramatized in the movie "Boys Don't Cry"), the local police did nothing to investigate or punish the men who raped Teena. Teena was transgender, and unfortunately the bias of the officers got in the way of doing their job. Hate crimes legislation would mandate reporting of such crimes, and make more resources available to people like Brandon Teena, who was later murdered (along with two other people, I believe) by his attackers. These people might be alive today if local law enforcement had taken the correct action, instead of ignoring a crime because it had happened to a transgendered person.

I've heard the argument -- "but the police should be doing this for everyone, for every crime." That is true, but unfortunately is not the reality. We are all human, and our biases and prejudices sometimes get in the way of justice. Hate crimes legislation is a simple measure that adds a layer of protection that might be denied to those who might otherwise not receive equal treatment or justice when victimized because of their race, sexual orientation, religion, etc.