Friday, April 3, 2009

Matthew Shepard Act To Go To House

Federal Legislation Providing Resources for Law Enforcement to Combat Hate Violence Introduced in House

More than 300 law enforcement, civil rights, civic and religious organizations support bill to combat hate crimes.

WASHINGTON – The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, hailed today the re-introduction of the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which would provide local police and sheriff’s departments with federal resources to combat hate violence. After more than a decade of lobbying on Capitol Hill and seven successful votes on the bill, this critical piece of legislation was introduced with bipartisan support by Representatives John Conyers (D-MI) and Mark Kirk (R-IL). HRC is joined by more than 300 law enforcement, civil rights, civic and religious organizations actively supporting its passage. The Senate is expected to introduce a bipartisan companion bill soon.

“Each year, thousands of Americans are violently attacked just because of who they are. These crimes not only harm individuals, they terrorize entire communities. After more than a decade of delay, it’s time to provide local police and sheriffs’ departments with the full resources of the Justice Department to address vicious hate crimes,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese.

Because there is no federal law mandating states and municipalities to report hate crimes, they are often underreported. However, the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s own statistics, based on voluntary reporting, show that since 1991 over 100,000 hate crime offenses have been reported to the FBI, with 7,624 reported in 2007, the FBI’s most recent reporting period. Violent crimes based on sexual orientation constituted 16.6 percent of all hate crimes in 2007, with 1,265 reported for the year. In addition, while not captured in the federal statistics, transgender Americans too often live in fear of violence.

A wide coalition of national organizations has called for the passage of the LLEHCPA legislation. Some of those organizations supporting this legislation include: the National Sheriffs Association; International Association of Chiefs of Police; 26 state Attorneys General; and the National District Attorneys Association.

In the 110th Congress, the LLEHCPA was introduced by Representative John Conyers (D-MI) and approved in the House by a bipartisan vote of 237-180. The Senate version, the Matthew Shepard Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, was introduced by Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and offered as an amendment to the Department of Defense Authorization (DoD) bill. After a successful 60-39 vote to prevent a filibuster, the Matthew Shepard Act was adopted by voice vote and added to the DoD bill. Unfortunately, the hate crimes provision was not included in the final version of the DoD bill.

To take action to support the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, please visit:

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.

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