Thursday, April 2, 2009

Federal Legislation Providing Resources for Law Enforcement to Combat Hate Crimes Violence Introduced in House

It has been over a decade since Mathew Shepard was murdered because he was gay. Everytime I see his mom Judy this feeling overwhelms me and I think to myself, "Please let this be the year we pass Hate Crimes legislation for her."

Today the Human Rights Campaign released the following press release:

More than 300 law enforcement, civil rights, civic and religious organizations support bill to address hate crimes
WASHINGTON – The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, hailed today the re-introduction of the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which would provide local police and sheriff’s departments with federal resources to combat hate violence. After more than a decade of lobbying on Capitol Hill and seven successful votes on the bill, this critical piece of legislation was introduced with bipartisan support by Representatives John Conyers (D-MI) and Mark Kirk (R-IL).  HRC is joined by more than 300 law enforcement, civil rights, civic and religious organizations actively supporting its passage.  The Senate is expected to introduce a bipartisan companion bill soon.
“Each year, thousands of Americans are violently attacked just because of who they are.  These crimes not only harm individuals, they terrorize entire communities. After more than a decade of delay, it’s time to provide local police and sheriffs’ departments with the full resources of the Justice Department to address vicious hate crimes,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese.
Because there is no federal law mandating states and municipalities to report hate crimes, they are often underreported.  However, the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s own statistics, based on voluntary reporting, show that since 1991 over 100,000 hate crime offenses have been reported to the FBI, with 7,624 reported in 2007, the FBI’s most recent reporting period.  Violent crimes based on sexual orientation constituted 16.6 percent of all hate crimes in 2007, with 1,265 reported for the year. In addition, while not captured in the federal statistics, transgender Americans too often live in fear of violence.
The LLEHCPA gives the Justice Department the power to investigate and prosecute bias motivated 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.  It provides the Justice Department with the ability to aid state and local jurisdictions either by lending assistance or, where local authorities are unwilling or unable, by taking the lead in investigations and prosecutions of violent crime resulting in death or serious bodily injury that were motivated by bias.  It also makes grants available to state and local communities to combat violent crimes committed by juveniles, train law enforcement officers, or to assist in state and local investigations and prosecutions of bias motivated crimes.
A wide coalition of national organizations has called for the passage of the LLEHCPA legislation.  Some of those organizations supporting this legislation include:  the National Sheriffs Association; International Association of Chiefs of Police; 26 state Attorneys General; and the National District Attorneys Association. 
In the 110th Congress, the LLEHCPA was introduced by Representative John Conyers (D-MI) and approved in the House by a bipartisan vote of 237-180.  The Senate version, the Matthew Shepard Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, was introduced by Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and offered as an amendment to the Department of Defense Authorization (DoD) bill.  After a successful 60-39 vote to prevent a filibuster, the Matthew Shepard Act was adopted by voice vote and added to the DoD bill.  Unfortunately, the hate crimes provision was not included in the final version of the DoD bill. 
To take action to support the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes PreventionAct, please visit: 

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