Friday, October 09, 2009

Hate Crime Bill Moves Forward

WASHINGTON — A House vote Thursday put Congress on the verge of significantly expanding hate crimes law to make it a federal crime to assault people because of their sexual orientation. The legislation would bring major changes to law enacted in the days after Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination in 1968.

"No American should ever have to suffer persecution or violence because of who they are, how they look or what they believe," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., noting that hate crimes legislation has been on her agenda since she first entered Congress more than two decades ago.

Civil rights groups and their Democratic allies have come close to expanding the hate crimes bill several times in the past decade, but have always fallen short because of lack of House-Senate coordination or opposition from former President George W. Bush.

But this time, it appears that they may succeed. The legislation was attached to a must-pass $680 billion defense policy bill that the Senate could approve as early as next week. President Barack Obama has promised to sign it into law. The late Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., was a longtime advocate of the hate crimes legislation.

The House vote on the defense bill was 281-146. Unlike usual defense bill votes, most of those in opposition — 131 out of the 146 — were Republicans objecting strenuously to inclusion of what they referred to as "thought crimes" legislation in a defense bill.

Read the rest here


Textjunkie said...

I have to admit I am leary of hate crime legislation. It's a crime to assault someone, *period*. Leave those laws on the books. Murder is murder, assault is assault, violence is violence--all bad, regardless of motive. While crimes motivated by hatred and various 'isms' can be *horrific*, so is the same crime without that motivation; I'm not sure singling out the motive for the crime as more important than the crime itself (regardless of motive) is a good long-term strategy.

It's a real balancing act, between reinforcing the message in general that "You just don't DO that", that beating someone up for their sexual orientation is unacceptable--which is desirable to reinforce!--and setting up a situation whereby now someone has to defend themselves in court not only against the charge of assault but also the much more slippery charge of prejudice--very, very messy. This is a mixed blessing at best, and needs to be watched for abuse.

Just Me said...

I couldn't agree more with the first response


The Problem

A hate crime occurs when the perpetrator of the crime intentionally selects the victim because of who the victim is. Hate crimes rend the fabric of our society and fragment communities because they target an entire community or group of people, not just the individual victim. However, in most cases, current law prevents the federal government from assisting state and local authorities.

What is the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act / Matthew Shepard Act?
The Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act (LLEHCPA)/Matthew Shepard Act gives the Department of Justice (DOJ) the power to investigate and prosecute bias-motivated violence by providing the DOJ with jurisdiction over crimes of violence where the perpetrator has selected the victim because of the person's actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.

The Act provides the DOJ with the ability to aid state and local jurisdictions either by lending assistance or, where local authorities are unwilling or unable to act, by taking the lead in investigations and prosecutions of bias-motivated, violent crimes resulting in death or serious bodily injury. The LLEHCPA also makes grants available to state and local communities to combat violent crimes committed by juveniles, train law enforcement officers or assist in state and local investigations and prosecutions of bias-motivated crimes.


All this from the HRC website. Here's the deal as far as I'm concerned: Hate crime laws are ALREADY on the books. This legislation is NOT about prioritizing one kind of violence over another -- it is about giving LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS the tools they need to call on the Department of Justice for assitance in investigating and prosecuting crimes of violence on victims targeted because of who they are.

I've been lobbying on Capitol Hill for this legislation for many years and seeing it so close to finally passing with a president in the White House who will sign it is a HUGE step. So my prayers continue to ascend that it will move forward. I invite you to join me in those intercessions.

Mitchell said...

The hate crimes that concerns "you guys" is legislation to protect people with differing 'sexual orientations'

Why do people hate gays? This would be a good question to ask.

After you find some of the answers to this question you may be better able to craft the laws.

uffda51 said...

Who are "you guys" and how do you know what concerns them?

People hate gays because they are carefully taught to do so by people with a fifth grade understanding of the Bible and a Bronze Age understanding of human sexuality. Fear of "the other" has been with us since we lived in caves. It's always been a useful tool for politicians.