Today, the House passed the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act by a vote of 249-175. This bipartisan bill focuses on providing new resources to help state and local law enforcement agencies prevent and prosecute hate crimes. The current federal hate crimes law authorizes federal aid in cases of hate crimes committed because of a person's race, color, religion, or national origin. This bill closes gaps in federal law to also help combat hate crimes committed because of a person's gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.
Speaker Pelosi on passage:
Throughout our history, this nation has sought to uphold the ideals of our founding — that all are created equal and endowed by our Creator with inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. 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: 'one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.'
All Americans have a fundamental right to feel safe in their communities. This legislation will help protect Americans against violence based on sexual orientation, race, religion, gender, national origin, disability, or gender identity.
Congress has been debating federal hate crimes legislation for 17 years. It was more than ten years ago that Mathew Shepard was brutally murdered. The time for debate is long over. I am so proud that today the House has acted and in so doing, honored this nation's commitment to the ideals of justice, equality and opportunity.
Chairman John Conyers (D-MI):
“I remind members that under Lyndon Johnson in 1968 we first started hate crimes bills under the arson — the church arson bills. The president called us into the White House with the Governors of southern states to advise them that the burning of churches, the arson, the cross burnings were so out of control in many states that there was no other remedy that — except that by statute the federal government would have to intercede where they invited them to do so. And from that has grown this bill that has been tested in the Supreme Court and many other lower courts, and so we come before you with a bill that does not encroach upon the first amendment or the fourth amendment or the part of the constitution that leaves all other powers to the states.”
Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI):
“The House has a historic opportunity to reinforce the principles of equal rights and equal protection embodied in our constitution. Hate crimes are acts of violence motivated by prejudice and committed against individuals that end up victimizing entire groups of people. In 1968, in response to horrific hate-based violence in our country, cross burnings, lynchings, fire bombings and the like, we acted to protect people who were victimized on the basis race, color, religion, or national origin. Today, we strengthen our response to this form of domestic terrorism by adding protections for people targeted for violence because of their gender, disability, gender identity, or sexual orientation.”
Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA):
“You would think this is the first time hate crimes ever came up in American history. There are on the books statutes that increase the penalty for crimes depending on the motivation. And people say ‘Everybody should be treated equally.’ By the way, I assume Members know that there is a special statute that makes it particularly egregious in terms of sentencing if you assault a Member of Congress. And I assume nobody knew that on that side because they would’ve moved to repeal it. They apparently are perfectly comfortable getting a greater degree of federal protection against crime than the average citizen, did they forget to repeal that, where was that motion?”
Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY):
“This House faces a historic test. Will we act decisively to deal with some of the most destructive crimes in our society? Violent assaults against victims who are singled out solely because someone doesn’t like who they are? Because the actual perceived race, color, origin, sexual gender, these violent acts are particularly reprehensible because they target not just an individual but an entire group. These crimes do and are often intended to spread terror among all of the group. They say, don’t be who you are, do not exercise your civil rights to be yourself, to speak publicly, to go wherever you want.”
Rep. Al Green (D-TX):
“I rise in support of the Declaration of Independence. All persons are created equal, endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights–among them, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Not some people, not people of a particular race, not people who just happen to be heterosexual. All persons are created equal. And for the record, I support the rights of gay people. Gay people have the same rights as any other Americans, and they have the right to pursue happiness. I support this, the Declaration of Independence speaks of it, and but for the Grace of God we all ought to realize, there go I.”
Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD):
“In an ideal world, I wouldn’t be standing here speaking before you now because we wouldn’t need legislation like this. But this is anything but an ideal world. Sadly, violent hate crimes are still an unfortunate reality in our society. Last year, there were 150 reported hate crimes in my home state of Maryland and local law enforcement estimates that the actual numbers are higher due to reporting discrepancies. Recent statistics say there were more than 9,000 reported hate crimes. The time to do something about this is now.”
Rep. Betsy Markey (D-CO):
“Matthew Shepard died in a hospital less than five minutes from my home in Fort Collins, Colorado. The depth of hate that drives such an act of violence leaves all those that touches berets in the knowledge that such ugliness can exist on this earth. Angie Zapata was an 18 year old transgendered woman brutally murdered in Colorado this past July. It took a jury just two hours to convict Angie’s killer under Colorado’s first application of hate crimes statute earlier this month. This bill does not punish speech, thoughts, words or beliefs. It doesn't even punish hate speech. It punishes actions.”