Federal Hate Crimes Bill Reintroduced
Log Cabin Applauds Republicans Leading Effort to Enhance Local Law Enforcement of Bias-Related Crimes
(WASHINGTON, DC) – Senator Gordon Smith (R-OR), Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA), Congresswoman Connie Morella (R-MD) and Democratic colleagues re-introduced federal hate crimes legislation in Congress today, advancing an important policy discussion on bias-related violence across the country.
The Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Act would give federal prosecutors the discretion, under the direction of the Attorney General, to prosecute violent crimes against individuals based on their actual or perceived race, color, religion, and national origin. The bill also gives power to the Attorney General to determine, on a case by case basis, whether interstate commerce was affected or involved in violent crimes against individuals on the basis of their real or perceived gender, disability or sexual orientation, and federalize such prosecutions as well. The bill also gives the Department of Justice the ability to provide needed federal technical and financial assistance to state and local authorities upon request for local investigation or prosecution of bias-related crimes. Upon its unveiling at a Capitol Hill press conference, the bill had 50 co-sponsors in the Senate and 180 in the House.
"We applaud Senator Smith, Senator Specter, Congresswoman Morella and the Republican sponsors of this legislation for leading a crucial policy discussion in Congress and for our country," said Rich Tafel, executive director of Log Cabin Republicans. "The hope of Log Cabin Republicans is to help keep the broader discussion, which too often is held by just those on polarized sides, firmly at the center. To achieve success on this issue, we will work to ensure respect of good-faith concerns from all sides of the debate – civil rights groups, Members of the House and Senate and from the White House. If all sides are respectfully brought to the table and their concerns are addressed, we could have legislation pass the House and Senate and be signed by the President."
"One of the key issues confronting our nation today, from the workplace to schools to our local communities, is that too often bias becomes hatred, and hatred becomes violence," Tafel said. "We look forward to working closely with all parties involved in this important issue to ensure swift and effective prosecution and punishment under the law for all criminals, including those who commit bias-related crimes."
The bill in its present form, previously entitled the Hate Crimes Prevention Act, passed the Senate as an amendment to a Defense authorization bill in June 2000 by a vote of 57-42, with a favorable procedural vote in the House of 232-192, before being stripped from the Defense bill in conference as non-germane. During the floor debate in the Senate, an alternative measure was introduced by Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) which included financial and technical assistance for local law enforcement on bias-related crimes, and commissioned a one-year Comptroller General study of 10 jurisdictions with hate crimes laws and 10 jurisdictions without, to review if violent bias-related crimes of any kind are being reported, prosecuted successfully, and are incurring comparable sentences across all the jurisdictions.