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Religious Tolerance logo

U.S. hate crime bills/laws

Hate-crimes bill S. 909:
House passes bill. Support for bill

Sponsored link.

House passes HR 1913:

Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), the only openly lesbian member in Congress, said: "The House has an opportunity to reintroduce the principle of equal rights and equal protections in the Constitution."

On 2009-APR-29, The U.S. House voted 249 to 175 (59%) in favor of HB 1913. The vote was essentially by party affiliation, with Democrats in favor of the hate crime bill, and Republicans opposed. 17 Democrats voted against the bill; this was neatly compensated for by 18 Republicans who voted for it. 1

Representative Louis Gohmert (R-TX) attempted to have the bill returned to the Judiciary Committee. This maneuver failed 141 to 185.

House Speaker Nancy Pilosi said: "Today, with the passage of federal hate crimes legislation, we have affirmed these ideals and the inclusiveness that our nation stands for by extending the protection of its laws to all." 2

Some support for the hate-crimes legislation:

Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) said:

"After more than a decade of delay and tens of thousands of additional victims, now is the time for this critical piece of legislation to be signed into law.  We stand with the more than 300 law enforcement, civil rights and religious organizations supporting this bill that would provide local police and sheriffs' departments with the tools and resources they need to ensure that entire communities are not terrorized by hate violence. On behalf of the overwhelming majority of the American people, we stand today and urge the U.S. Senate to take quick action and pass the Matthew Shepard Act and send the bill to the president's desk for signature. 3

Also according to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC):

"A wide coalition of national organizations has called for the passage of the LLEHCPA legislation.  Some of those organizations supporting this legislation include:  the National Sheriffs Association; International Association of Chiefs of Police; 26 state Attorneys General; and the National District Attorneys Association." 3

The United Church of Christ (UCC), a liberal Protestant Christian denomination, has a notice on their website concerning hate crime legislation. It says:

"A hate crime occurs when the perpetrator of the crime intentionally selects the victim because of who the victim is.  Hate crimes rend the fabric of our society and fragment communities by targeting a group of people, not just the individual victim. A law protecting all of our citizens against senseless hate violence is long overdue."

"Current hate crime statutes offer no federal protection against bias motivated crimes rooted in sexual orientation, gender, gender identity and disability. The Matthew Shepard Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act (H.R. 1913) would include these categories and permit federal authorities to help investigate and prosecute cases when local authorities are unable or unwilling to do so. ..."

"The sacred scriptures of many different faith traditions speak with dramatic unanimity on the subject of hate. Crimes motivated by hatred or bigotry are an assault not only upon individual victim's freedoms, but also upon a belief that lies at the core of our diverse faith traditions -- that every human being is created in the image of God. ..."

"Some critics of this legislation have erroneously asserted that enactment of the measure would prohibit the lawful expression of one's deeply held religious beliefs.  These fears are unfounded. H.R. 1919 [sic] does not in any way violate the First Amendment protections of offenders. Hate crime laws do not restrict free speech. They target only violent criminal activity motivated by prejudice." 4

References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Jennifer Mesko, "U.S. House Creates Special Legal Status for Gay People," CitizenLink, 2009-APR-29, at: http://www.citizenlink.org/
  2. Chris Johnson, "House approves hate crimes bill," The Washington Blade, 2009-APR-29, at: http://washblade.com/
  3. "Bipartisan Coalition Introduces Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act in U.S. Senate," Human Rights Campaign, 2009-APR-28, at: http://www.hrc.org/
  4. "Support Vital Hate Crimes Prevention Laws!," United Church of Christ, 2009-APR at: https://secure3.convio.net/

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Copyright © 2009 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
First posted: 2009-APR-29
Latest update: 2009-JUL-15
Author: B.A. Robinson

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