Today, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR), the nation’s oldest, largest, and most diverse civil and human rights coalition, applauded the Senate for approving the Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Act (LLEEA), which was offered by Senators Gordon Smith (D-Ore.) and Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) as an amendment to the Department of Defense authorization bill. LCCR applauds Senators Smith and Kennedy for their leadership in ensuring approval of this bi-partisan bill.
“The Smith-Kennedy Amendment strengthens 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,” explained Wade Henderson, executive director of LCCR.
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.
“This bill would enhance the federal response to hate crime violence by covering all violent crimes based on race, color, religion, or national origin,” Henderson continued. “In addition, the LLEEA would permit federal involvement in the prosecution of bias-motivated crimes based on the victim’s gender, sexual orientation, or disability.”
“This expansion is critical in order to protect members of these groups from this most egregious form of discrimination. LCCR believes that while states should continue to play the primary role in the prosecution of hate crime violence, the federal government must be able to address cases that local authorities are either unable or unwilling to investigate and prosecute,” Henderson concluded.