Updates to Federal Law Would Strengthen Law Enforcement Ability to Investigate, Prosecute Hate Crimes.
Washington - The Human Rights Campaign - the nation's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization - hailed today's bipartisan vote of 249-175 in the U.S. House passing the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, also known in the U.S. Senate as the Matthew Shepard Act.
"All Americans are one step closer to protection from hate violence thanks to today's vote," said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. "Hate crimes are a scourge on our communities and it's time we give law enforcement the tools they need to combat this serious problem."
"No one should face violence simply because of who they are," said Judy Shepard, executive director of the Matthew Shepard Foundation. "This bill is a critical step to erasing the hate that has devastated far too many families."
Yesterday the White House released a statement from President Obama calling for passage in the House and urging the Senate to follow with swift action. Along with the President, more than 300 law enforcement, civil rights and religious organizations support the bill.
"The Senate should heed the President's leadership and quickly pass the Matthew Shepard Act," said Solmonese. "After more than ten years and tens of thousands of victims, there should be no delay in passing this bill into law."
This is the eighth successful vote on a federal hate crimes bill which - following a veto threat from former President Bush - died in the last Congress.
"Fair-minded leaders in Congress have for years stood strong against lies about the bill and we are grateful for their efforts," continued Solmonese. "The leadership of Speaker Pelosi, Majority Leader Hoyer and Majority Whip Clyburn as well as Reps. Conyers, Kirk, Baldwin, Frank, and Polis made this incredible victory possible."
Working in coalition with the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, the Human Rights Campaign mobilized its members to support the bill. The website www.FightHateNow.org gives users opportunities to contact their member of Congress, watch video testimonials on hate crimes and learn the truth about the legislation. The site will continue as a clearinghouse for information leading up to Senate action.
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.
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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