'Hate crimes send a message of fear and Congress answered with a powerful law enforcement tool,' said HRC President Joe Solmonese.
WASHINGTON - The U.S. House of Representatives today passed the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act by an overwhelming 223 to 199 bipartisan vote, taking a historic step toward giving law enforcement the tools they need to enforce and prosecute hate crimes against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans. The measure was passed as an amendment to H.R. 3132, the "Children's Safety Act."
"Hate crimes send a message of fear and Congress answered with a powerful law enforcement tool," said HRC President Joe Solmonese. "We must ensure that some of the most heinous crimes are fully prosecuted and enforced. Members of the House, Democrats and Republicans alike, historically signaled today that local law enforcement officials deserve the tools this bill would provide toward fighting the scourge of hate crimes."
"Every American child deserves the strongest protections from some of this country's most horrifying crimes," said Judy Shepard, mother of Matthew Shepard and HRC board member. "The House of Representatives answered our call today by passing a bill that would give law enforcement officials important crime-fighting tools. This makes families stronger. It makes America stronger."
Reps. Barney Frank, D-Mass. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla. John Conyers Jr., D-Mich. Christopher Shays, R-Conn. and Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis. are the lead sponsors of the original bill, which would add actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender, gender identity and disability to federal hate crime laws. It would give grants to the states to help prosecute these crimes and allow federal assistance in cases where needed to fully prosecute hate crimes.
The measure enjoys strong bipartisan support and is endorsed by more than 175 law enforcement, civil rights, civic and religious organizations, including: the National Sheriffs' Association, International Association of Chiefs of Police, U.S. Conference of Mayors, Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association and many others.
Poll after poll continues to show that the American public supports hate crimes legislation inclusive of sexual orientation, including a Kaiser Family Foundation poll released in November 2001 showing that 73 percent of Americans supporting hate crimes legislation that includes sexual orientation and a Lake Snell Perry & Associates poll in August 2002 showing that 68 percent of likely voters support hate crimes laws for transgender Americans.
The Human Rights Campaign is the largest national lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender political organization with members throughout the country. It effectively lobbies Congress, provides campaign support and educates the public to ensure that LGBT Americans can be open, honest and safe at home, at work and in the community.
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