McCollum and Republican Members Urge Speaker to Vote on Hate Crimes Legislation
"Hate Crimes Tear at the Very Fabric of Our Nation"
(Washington, DC) – Today, in a letter to Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, Chairman Bill McCollum (R-FL) of the House Crime Subcommittee and 19 other Republican Members urged the Speaker to vote on the Senate-added Hate Crimes language in S. 2549, the Department of Defense Authorization bill. The legislation would expand the law to protect anyone who is the subject of serious violent crimes based on that individual's race, color, religion, ethnicity, gender, disability, or sexual orientation.
McCollum has supported hate crimes legislation similar to S. 2549 since 1990. On June 20, 2000, the U.S. Senate approved two hate crimes amendments to S. 2549. Thirteen Republican Senators supported the Senate language.
In 1997 in the state of Florida, a total of 160 hate crimes were reported. In 1998, 203 hate crimes were reported, representing an increase of 27% from the previous year. Approximately 2/3 of all hate crimes reported in Florida were race/color related, while 13% were religion based, 10% were based on ethnicity, and 14% were based on sexual orientation.
The letter to Speaker Hastert is attached.
September 12, 2000
The Honorable Dennis Hastert
Speaker of the House
Dear Mr. Speaker:
We write to urge you and the rest of the House Republican Leadership to encourage House Conferees on the Department of Defense Authorization bill (S. 2549) to recede to the Senate on an important high profile national issue – hate crimes.
As you know, the Senate passed the Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Act on June 20 as an amendment to S. 2549. The 57 to 42 vote was accomplished with the strong leadership of Senator Gordon Smith and the support of 13 Republican Senators. We feel strongly that the time has come for the House of Representatives to act on passing hate crimes legislation.
Hate crimes are very, very wrong. When someone commits a crime of violence against a person solely because of race, religion, or sexual orientation, they should be given an extra sentence in addition to that for the underlying crime. Such crimes are not just against the individual, they are against a class of people. They violate the very spirit of America. June marked the second anniversary of James Byrd Jr.'s death in Texas and October will mark the second anniversary of Matthew Shepard's murder in Wyoming. It is long past time federal prosecutors be given the authority to prosecute such crimes when there is not a state hate crime law or when local law enforcement fails to take action. In addition, as this legislation does, local law enforcement should be given federal support when they tackle such crimes. The message must be clear: when you commit a hate crime, you will be severely punished.
The language included in S. 2549 is similar to legislation that enjoys not only bipartisan support in the House, with 192 cosponsors, but also the support of law enforcement, including the International Association of Chiefs of Police, National Sheriffs Association, Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, Police Foundation, Police Executive Research Forum, Hispanic National Law Enforcement Association, National Center for Women & Policing, and the National Organization for Black Law Enforcement Executives.
With time running out in this Congress, consideration of separate legislation is not practical or necessary. If the Conferees on S. 2549 recede to the Senate on the hate crimes amendment, this legislation can be enacted this year. Chairman Henry Hyde had the foresight to hold a hearing on the issue of hate crimes last August. It is time to bring this proposal, which enjoys enormous support in the American public, forward for consideration so that it can be enacted into law in this Congress.
Thank you for your consideration.
Bill McCollum, Mark Foley, Steven LaTourette, Nancy Johnson, Rick Lazio, Jim Kolbe, Jim Leach, Connie Morella, Frank LoBiondo, Benjamin Gilman, Sue Kelly, Steve Kuykendall James Walsh, Steve Horn, Bob Franks, Jim Saxton, Judy Biggert, Brian Bilbray, Amo Houghton, Christopher Shays
Rep. Bill McCollum (R-FL)