For Immediate Release:
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
SENATE FILES HATE CRIMES BILL FOR POTENTIAL VOTE TODAY
'Matthew Shepard Act' Submitted as Amendment to Defense Reauthorization More Than 1,300 Clergy Sign on to Letter of Support
WASHINGTON - Today, Sens. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., and Gordon Smith, R-Ore., filed the Matthew Shepard Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act(S. 1105) as an amendment for consideration to the Department of Defense reauthorization currently being debated before the U.S. Senate. The bill, commonly referred to as the "hate crimes bill," could receive a Senate vote as early as today. The virtually identical House version of the bill passed overwhelmingly on May 3, 2007, with a bipartisan vote of 237 to 180 - with more than 20 Republicans voting in support of the bill.
"Without any further delay, it's time for Congress to 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 Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign. "On behalf of the overwhelming majority of the American people, we stand today and urge the U.S. Senate to pass the Matthew Shepard Act and send a strong message that hate violence against any American will no longer be tolerated."
"The Matthew Shepard Act sends a strong message to America that hate and the violent crimes committed in its wake are not acceptable in our society. This crucial piece of legislation is an important step in the ongoing effort to erase hate. I cannot think of a single more resounding action for the Senate to take in our son Matthew's memory," said Judy Shepard, executive director of the Matthew Shepard Foundation.
The Matthew Shepard Act is supported by more than 290 law enforcement, civil rights, civic and religious organizations. Some of those supporting organizations include the National Sheriffs Association, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, 26 state attorneys general, the National District Attorneys Association, the NAACP, the Episcopal Church, the League of Women Voters, the YWCA of the USA and the United Methodist Church.
The Human Rights Campaign, along with a coalition of organizations including the Unitarian Universalist Association, the Interfaith Alliance and the Religious Action Center released a list today of more than 1,300 faith leaders who have signed on to a letter urging passage of the Matthew Shepard Act (S. 1105) in the U.S. Senate - a bill that would update the current hate crimes law. The 1,385 faith leaders signing the letter represents a broad spectrum of religious voices urging passage of a hate crimes bill that is expected for a Senate vote in the near future. Read the complete letter at www.clergyagainsthate.org.
In addition to the letter, the Human Rights Campaign, along with the Leadership Council on Civil Rights and the National Black Justice Coalition, has also published a full-page ad in today's edition of Roll Call. The ad features a theologically diverse group of black clergy representing tens of thousands of Americans speaking out in support of proposed hate crimes legislation. View the ad.
According to the FBI, somewhere in this country a hate crime is being committed once every hour, and one in six of those crimes are because of the victim's sexual orientation. These hate crimes terrorize entire communities and violate America's core democratic principles that all citizens are created equal and are afforded equal protection under the law.
This legislation would help combat hate crimes across America by doing two important things: updating the federal hate crimes laws to include all Americans, and providing new resources and tools to assist local law enforcement in prosecuting these vicious crimes.
In addition to this year's overwhelming, bipartisan vote in the House to support this legislation, both the Senate and House have voted in favor of legislation to combat bias-motivated violence in prior Congresses. Most recently, in the 109th Congress, the House of Representative approved its hate crimes bill as an amendment on a bipartisan vote of 223 to 199. House and Senate votes were held in the 106th and 108th Congress as well. In the 108th Congress, the Senate passed the measure by an overwhelming vote of 65 to 33, with 18 Senate Republicans voting yes, and the House approved it on a bipartisan vote of 213 to 186, with 31 Republicans voting yes.
The Human Rights Campaign has produced an award-winning video focusing on passage of the Matthew Shepard Act that has been viewed more than 360,000 times on YouTube - making it the most-watched HRC video to date. View the video.
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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