Civil Rights Coalition Calls on House to Pass Hate Crimes Bill
Washington, D.C. – Recognizing the vile nature of hate crimes and the need for federal involvement in prosecuting such crimes, the U.S. House of Representatives should follow the Senate in passing the Hate Crimes Bill otherwise known as the Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Act (LLEEA).
This bill, passed by a vote of 65-33 in the Senate, provides federal support for local authorities in investigating and prosecuting acts of hate based on race, religion, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or disability.
“Hate crimes have no place in America. The Senate decided to engage the power of the federal government in fighting hate crimes. We urge the House, especially the House leadership, to do nothing less,” said Wade Henderson, Executive Director of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, the nation’s oldest, largest, and most diverse civil and human rights coalition. “Victims of hate crimes need the resources of federal government to assist local authorities in investigating and prosecuting the perpetrators.”
“While LCCR recognizes that bigotry cannot be legislated out of existence, a forceful, moral response to hate crimes is required,” continued Henderson. “Congress must do everything possible to empower the federal government to assist in local hate crime prosecutions and, where appropriate, expand existing federal authority to permit a wider range of investigations and prosecutions.”
On June 15, 2004, the Senate overwhelmingly approved the Hate Crimes measure as part of the Department of Defense authorization bill. A broad coalition of religious, law enforcement, and civil rights groups are calling on members of a House-Senate conference committee to support the Senate-passed bill. The House is likely to take up this issue today with a motion to instruct the House conference committee to support the Senate-passed LLEEA.
The Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Act would complement Section 245 of Title 18 U.S.C. — one of the primary statutes now used to combat racial and religious bias-motivated violence. LLEEA would strengthen the federal hate crimes statute by removing unnecessary obstacles to federal prosecution and by providing authority for federal involvement in a wider category of bias motivated crimes. Current hate crimes law leaves federal prosecutors powerless to intervene in bias-motivated crimes when they cannot also establish that the crime was committed because of the victim’s involvement in a “federally protected activity” such as serving on a jury, attending a public school, or voting.
“The LLEEA would enhance the federal response to hate crime violence by covering all violent crimes based on race, color, religion, or national origin, and it would expand the law to permit federal involvement in the prosecution of bias-motivated crimes based on the victim’s gender, sexual orientation, or disability,” concluded Henderson. “This expansion is critical in order to protect members of these groups from this most egregious form of discrimination.”
For more information see the LCCREF report, Cause for Concern: Hate Crimes in America (2004 Update) /publications/reports/cause_for_concern_2004.