People For the American Way urged Congress to support efforts by U.S. Representative John Conyers, Jr., D-Mich., to revive a bill containing a hate crimes provision which has been stalled in a conference committee. At a press conference on Capitol Hill today, Conyers announced his submission of a petition to discharge the Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Act (LLEEA) from the conference committee for a vote on the House floor.
LLEEA would extend the federal government’s ability to investigate or prosecute incidents of hate violence in two ways. First, it would expand the scope of hate crimes based on race, religion, national origin and ethnicity to include those crimes perpetrated when the victim is not engaged in a “federally protected activity.” In addition, it would extend the scope of prosecutable hate crimes to include those based on gender, disability, and sexual orientation.
“Too many members of Congress are willing to talk the hate crimes bill to death,” said PFAW President Ralph G. Neas. “The House of Representatives has been debating hate crimes legislation for years. The need is clear. The remedy is clear. It is past time for the House to act.”
LLEEA passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on July 26, 2001. It contains provisions of the Hate Crimes Prevention Act that passed in both Houses last year and was sponsored by Sens. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., Gordon Smith, R-Ore., and Conyers.
Many right-wing leaders in Congress have opposed efforts to include sexual orientation in the federal Hate Crimes Law. Part of their argument is that gays are not a group singled out for discrimination. Since 1993, People For the American Way Foundation has published a book, Hostile Climate, that chronicles the ongoing struggle gays face in overcoming bigotry. The eighth edition of the book will be released before the end of the month.