On July 23, 2007, the House passed H.Res. 535, a resolution commending David Ray Ritcheson, a survivor of one of the most horrific hate crimes in the history of Texas, and recognizing his efforts in promoting Federal legislation to combat hate crimes. Ritcheson's testimony before the Judiciary Committee helped spur passage of the Hate Crimes Prevention Act by a bipartisan vote of 237-180. That bill is focused on enhancing the resources of state and local law enforcement to prevent and prosecute hate crimes, and will close gaps in federal law to help combat hate crimes committed against persons because of their race, color, religion, national origin, gender, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Richeson was the victim of a horrific hate crime in April, 2006, and testified a year later in April of this year. He died on July 1, 2007, when he jumped from a cruise ship into the Gulf of Mexico.
The Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which is currently being considered in the Senate, would provide new resources to help state and local law enforcement agencies prevent and prosecute hate crimes, and close gaps in current federal hate crimes law. Underfunded and understaffed, state and local law enforcement desperately require federal assistance to address this challenge. That is why this bill authorizes the Department of Justice to provide state and local law enforcement agencies technical, forensic, prosecutorial and other forms of assistance in the investigation and prosecution of hate crimes. It also authorizes the Department of Justice to provide grants to state and local law enforcement agencies that are investigating hate crimes. The bill closes gaps in federal law to help combat hate crimes committed against persons because of their race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability. The bill only applies to bias-motivated crimes of violence and does not impinge freedom of speech or religious expression in any way.
Hate crimes have no place in America and all Americans have a right to feel safe in their community. Though there has been a federal hate crimes law since 1968, hate crimes continue to be widespread and persistent - more than 113,000 hate crimes have been documented by the FBI since 1991. In 2005 alone, there were 7,163 reported hate crimes.
The President has threatened to veto the Hate Crimes Prevention Act, declaring it “inconsistent with the proper allocation of criminal enforcement responsibilities” and “constitutionally questionable.”
Read David Ray Ritcheson's testimony before the House Judiciary Committee>>
Read the Administration's statement of opposition >>
In the News:
'House Votes to Expand 'Hate Crime' Protections' (NYT)>>
'House Backs Expanded Hate-Crime Law' (WP) >>