Friday, April 24, 2009

Hate Crimes Prevention Act

Hate crimes legislation has languished in Congress since 1997 largely because of the inclusion of sexual orientation. On Thursday, the long journey to give law enforcement the proper tools to fight hate crimes, came closer to being a reality. The House Judiciary Committee voted 15-12 taking it to the House floor as early as next week. Despite the obstructionist actions of several Republicans on the committee, the majority which included Wisconsin's Tammy Baldwin moved the legislation forward.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), an original cosponsor of the bill, gave the following comments after passage:

"The Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act is an essential step
toward giving teeth to our local and national hate crime laws," Nadler said.
"That Americans would be singled out and victimized because of their race,
ethnicity, sexual orientation or religion is despicable. That our government
currently lacks the ability to fully investigate such heinous crimes and
prosecute the perpetrators is shameful."

The drive to pass legislation picked up steam after Matthew Shepard, a gay college student, was murdered in 1998 near Laramie, Wyoming. Unfortunately Republicans were in charge for most of that time. Their anti-gay base forced them to obstruct such efforts and protections. Finally, the legislation survived such obstruction and stands a good chance of becoming law.

Oh and by the way, it is not just meant to protect gay people but also people that are often targeted because of their race, ethnicity AND RELIGION!

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