WASHINGTON - Once one of the most vocal of the right-wing groups opposing a federal hate crimes law, the Concerned Women for America has now finally admitted the need for the federal government's involvement in investigating acts of hate violence.
In a story published online yesterday, CWA called for the Department of Justice to begin investigations into hate crimes to determine their validity. That acknowledgment of the need for federal involvement was a welcome sign for those advocating for the passage of the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act currently being considered in the U.S. Congress.
"The only response to this public acknowledgment by the Concerned Women for America is to say, 'Thank you.' Because of the opposition of right-wing groups like Concerned Women for America, too many Americans have waited for too long for the federal government to provide the same protections against criminal acts of violence as their fellow Americans," said Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign. "This year offers an important opportunity to finally pass a federal hate crimes law, and we are pleased that CWA has finally acknowledged the need for federal involvement to investigate these violent acts of hate that terrorize whole communities of Americans."
Yesterday in a story published by Focus on the Family's "Family News in Focus," Matt Barber, CWA's political director for cultural issues, spoke on behalf of the organization, saying that they are calling on the Department of Justice to investigate whether specific hate crimes are truly acts of hate or not. The story, titled, "Pro-Family Group Calls for Investigation of Hate-Crimes Claims," was obviously intended to mock the legitimacy of the thousands of Americans across the country who too often find themselves victims of hate violence. However, the unintended consequence was that a national right-wing organization has now publicly admitted the need for federal involvement in hate crimes investigations.
"There's a reason why all the major law enforcement associations across the nation support a federal hate crimes law - it's because they need it. According to the FBI, each day 25 Americans fall victim to a hate crime," continued Solmonese. "While CWA really intended to belittle the damage these crimes do to entire communities, the groups' statements may actually help pass this important law that will finally give local law enforcement the federal assistance they need to thoroughly conduct investigations."
The Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act
This proposal gives the federal government jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute violent crimes committed because of a person's sexual orientation, gender identity, gender, disability, race, religion or national origin. It also provides assistance to local law enforcement to investigate and prosecute bias-motivated violence.
The Real Facts About Hate Crimes
One in six hate crimes is motivated by the victim's sexual orientation, and yet today's federal laws don't include any protections for these Americans.
A hate crime or bias-motivated crime occurs when the perpetrator of the crime intentionally selects the victim because of who the victim is. A bias-motivated crime affects not only the victim and his or her family but an entire community or category of people and their families. A study funded by the Bureau of Justice Statistics released in September 2000 shows that 85 percent of law enforcement officials surveyed recognize bias-motivated violence to be more serious than similar crimes not motivated by bias.
Hate crimes are destructive and divisive. A random act of violence resulting in injury or even death is a tragic event that devastates the lives of the victim and their family, but the intentional selection and beating or murder of individuals because of who they are terrorizes an entire community and sometimes the nation.
Who Supports the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act?
The Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act has broad bipartisan support and has previously passed both houses of Congress. In fact, more than 210 law enforcement, civil rights, civic and religious organizations support the passage of this crucial piece of legislation.
Such notable associations and individuals who support the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act include:
President George H.W. Bush's attorney general, Dick Thornburgh
National Sheriffs' Association
International Association of Chiefs of Police
31 state attorneys general
National District Attorneys Association
Leadership Conference on Civil Rights
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
National Council of La Raza
Human Rights Campaign
Parent's Network on Disabilities
In fact, three in four Americans (or 74 percent) favor strengthening laws to give local law police and sheriffs' departments the tools and resources they need to prevent and prosecute these heinous acts.
The Human Rights Campaign is America's largest civil rights organization working to achieve gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against GLBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.
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