Republican Senate Leadership Stalls Hate Crimes Bill

On June 11th, Senate Republican leaders strong-armed Republican supporters of
the federal hate crimes bill, known as the Local Law Enforcement Enhancement
Act, S. 625, to vote against a "cloture motion" on the bill, HRC asserted.

The only way to have stopped a filibuster and allow the Senate to debate and
vote on the hate crimes bill would have been for 60 Senators to vote "yes"
on the cloture motion. A cloture motion is designed to limit debate and
allow a vote on a bill to prevent opponents from offering unrelated
amendments. But on a vote of 54 to 43 the cloture motion was defeated today
– with 49 Democrats, 1 Independent and 4 Republicans voting in favor of the

"We know that more than 60 Senators support hate crimes legislation, yet
only 54 Senators voted for cloture," said HRC Executive Director Elizabeth
Birch. "While the Republican leadership talks about wanting to move the
business of the nation forward, when it comes to hate crimes legislation,
they went out of their way to grind the nation's business to a halt."

Although this motion was defeated, this strong vote – a clear majority –
should give the bill's sponsors incentive to overcome the partisan obstacles
that are holding up the bill, says HRC.

"We urge the bill's sponsors and the Democratic leadership to work to break
the procedural logjam so we can pass this crucial bill that will give local
law enforcement the tools they need to investigate and prosecute hate
crimes," said Birch.

This legislation has passed the Senate twice. The first time was in
1999 when it was passed by unanimous consent as an amendment to the
Commerce, Justice, State Appropriations bill. The second time was in June
2000, when it passed 57-42 in a bipartisan vote. Both times it was removed
in conference committee. In the 107th Congress it was reported out of the
Judiciary committee in July 2001, 12-7, also with bipartisan support.

"Senate supporters are considering next steps including options such
as filing another cloture motion or offering the measure to another
legislative vehicle," said HRC Political Director Winnie Stachelberg.
The bill's lead sponsors are Sens. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass.; Gordon Smith,
R-Ore.; and Arlen Specter, R-Pa. The 33-year-old federal statute currently
used to prosecute hate violence is in need of updating. It does not cover
hate violence based on sexual orientation, gender or disability and has an
overly restrictive element that requires that the victim be chosen because
he or she was engaged in a federally protected activity. The bill before
the Senate offers a sensible approach to help combat these violent crimes.
It would extend basic hate crime protections to all Americans in all
communities by adding real or perceived sexual orientation, gender and
disability to the categories covered and by removing the federally protected
activity requirement. The bill would also provide federal technical and
financial assistance to state and local law enforcement agencies to
investigate and prosecute hate crimes.

Since the FBI began collecting hate crimes statistics, more than
9,700 hate crimes based on sexual orientation have been reported. Since
1991, reported hate crimes based on sexual orientation have more than
tripled and consistently rank as the third highest category after race and
religion. The FBI's 2000 Uniform Crime Reports – the most recent year we
have statistics – showed that as overall serious crime decreased slightly
nationally, with the Crime Index at its lowest level since 1978, reported
hate crimes have continued to rise and increased 2.3 percent from 1999 to
2000. Reported hate crime based on sexual orientation comprised 16.1
percent of all hate crimes for 2000 for a total of 1,299.

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