The Human Rights Campaign praised several key members of
Congress recently for introducing federal hate crimes legislation that would
assist local law enforcement officials in their investigation and
prosecution of hate crimes. The bipartisan bill enters the political arena
with a record number of original cosponsors, says HRC.
“We urge Congress to schedule a vote on this popular, bipartisan
bill because the record number of original cosponsors shows it has great
prospects of passing the House and the Senate,” said HRC Political Director
Winnie Stachelberg. “We will also work to enlist support from the Bush
The Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Act, formerly the Hate Crimes
Prevention Act, was introduced today at a press conference on Capitol Hill.
The bill was unveiled with a record number of co-sponsors, 50 in the Senate
and 180 in the House at the time of the press conference. Lead sponsors
include Sens. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass.; Gordon Smith, R-Ore.; and Arlen
Specter, R-Pa. Lead House sponsors are Reps. John Conyers Jr. and Constance
In June 2000, the Senate voted 57 to 42 – including 13 Republicans — to
pass the language of the Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Act. On Sept. 13,
by a vote of 232-192 – including 41 Republicans – the House passed a motion
to instruct conferees to keep the hate crimes measure in the DoD bill.
Despite bipartisan support in the House and Senate, the GOP leadership
successfully stripped out hate crime legislation while the bill was in
If passed, the bill would amend the current 32-year old federal hate crimes
statute – which covers race, religion, color and national origin — to
include real or perceived gender, sexual orientation and disability. It
would serve as a tool to help law enforcement by allowing federal
assistance, when necessary, in the investigation and prosecutions of hate
crimes. This legislation has broad support from notable law enforcement
agencies and state and local leaders including 22 state attorneys general,
the Police Foundation, the International Association of Chiefs of Police and
the National Sheriff’s Association.
A September 2000 Gallup poll showed 72 percent of Americans agree that hate
crime laws should cover lesbians and gay men. Another poll, released last
year by the Garin-Hart-Yang-Research Group, shows that hate crime
legislation is widely supported by the public. According to the poll, nearly
66 percent of voters say they would be less likely to vote for a candidate
who voted against legislation to “strengthen the prosecution of violent hate
crimes motivated by prejudice against race, religion, gender or sexual
orientation of the victim.” 63 percent of Independent voters say they are
“less likely to vote for a candidate opposed to hate crime legislation.
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