TAKE ACTION: Tell Senate to Defeat Sessions Amendments to Hate Crimes
July 20, 2009
As we told you about over the weekend, today the Senate will take up the Defense Department authorization bill again and three amendments threaten to weaken the Matthew Shepard Hate Crime Prevention Act that the Senate voted to add last week.
Call the Senate switchboard right now at 202-224-3121 and tell your Senator to vote NO on the Sessions Amendments to the hate crimes bill. They are unnecessary, unhelpful and should not be adopted.
- The first Sessions Amendment would allow the death penalty to be applied in hate crimes cases under some circumstances. This Amendment is unnecessary and is a poison pill designed to kill the bill. The Amendment is being offered by and supported by Senators who oppose the Matthew Shepard Act. It’s ironic that the very Senators who have falsely argued that this bill would put clergy in jail because of their beliefs think that those same clergy should be subject to the death penalty.
- The second Sessions Amendment would place an additional burden on the Justice Department to revise its long established guidelines for hate crimes cases. This Amendment is unnecessary. The Department already has well-established, clear and precise guidelines to govern cases involving bias-motivated violence that work well.
- Finally, the third Sessions Amendment would provide additional penalties for crimes involving servicemembers or their families. This Amendment is unnecessary. Existing statutes already provide special penalties on attacks against members of the Armed Services and veterans. In addition, the vague language of the Amendment is problematic. The Amendment provides for additional penalties for injuring the property of a serviceman or immediate family member. The scope of “family member” or what constitutes an “injury” to their property is unclear.
Regardless of how the Senate disposes of these amendments, the Matthew Shepard Act will next head to a conference committee and then final votes in the House and Senate, likely in September. President Obama stands ready to sign it.