Bipartisan Coalition Introduces Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act in U.S. Senate

by HRC Staff

More than 300 law enforcement, civil rights, civic and religious organizations support bill to combat hate crimes.

Washington - The Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, hailed today the U.S. Senate re-introduction of the Matthew Shepard 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 Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA), Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), and Senator Arlen Specter (D-PA), among others.

"After more than a decade of delay and tens of thousands of additional victims, now is the time for this critical piece of legislation to be signed into law. We stand with the more than 300 law enforcement, civil rights and religious organizations supporting this bill that would provide local police and sheriffs' departments with the tools and resources they need to ensure that entire communities are not terrorized by hate violence," said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. "On behalf of the overwhelming majority of the American people, we stand today and urge the U.S. Senate to take quick action and pass the Matthew Shepard Act and send the bill to the president's desk for signature."

The U.S. House of Representatives re-introduced a bipartisan companion bill, the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, earlier this month. That bill is expected to be voted on tomorrow by the full House. To take action to support this important legislation, please visit:

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 nearly 130,000 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.

The Human Rights Campaign is America's largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.

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