Hate Crimes Amendment Passes the Senate

People For the American Way hailed today’s bipartisan vote in support of the Matthew Shepard Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2007 (S. 1105), an amendment to the FY 2008 Department of Defense authorization bill (H.R. 1585) offered by Senators Edward Kennedy and Gordon Smith.

S. 1105 would make it easier for federal or local authorities to prosecute hate crimes. It would remove the requirement that victims of bias-motivated crimes be engaged in a federally-protected activity such as voting when the crime is committed. It would expand the definition of hate crimes to include those motivated by the gender, gender identity, disability, or sexual orientation of the victim. Additionally, S. 1105 would also allow federal authorities to assist in local prosecutions to ensure that justice is served.

People For the American Way (PFAW) Director of Public Policy Tanya Clay House released the following statement:

“Today, we are celebrating passage of the Matthew Shepard Act, a key amendment to the Defense authorization bill, designed to prevent and punish crimes that target people for violence based on hatred. Radical right leaders have falsely portrayed the legislation as an attack on religious liberty, but it’s great the majority of the Senate was not swayed by this appalling and dishonest campaign against the hate crimes bill. The Senate has laid the groundwork to reaffirm a fundamental American principle: equal protection under the law for all Americans. When equal protection under the law is not the standard – but bigotry is – it fuels ignorance, and sometimes tragedy.

“We call on President Bush to abandon his threat to veto the Defense authorization if it includes the hate crimes amendment. This legislation is fair and just, and vetoing this bill because of this crucial component would be a misguided approach to fairness and justice.”

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