HRC Begins Push To Pass Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Act As Legislation Is Introduced By Key Members Of Congress

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

administration.”

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

A. Morella.

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

conference.

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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