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Pelosi: 'Hate Crimes Have No Place in America'

Washington, D.C. - Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke on the House floor this afternoon in  support of the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which passed by a vote of 237 to 180.   Below are her remarks as prepared:

'Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

'I thank the distinguished Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Mr. Conyers, for bringing this important legislation to the floor.  I thank him for his ongoing, long commitment to justice in our country.  I want to commend Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin and Congressman Barney Frank for their leadership.  It is an honor to call you colleagues.  Thank you for giving us the opportunity today to make America more American.

'Every day that we come to this floor, we honor the tradition of our founders that every person is created equal.  And that we are all God's children. 

'Every day that we come to this floor, we pledge allegiance to the flag.  At the end of that pledge, we say, 'with liberty and justice for all.'  That is what today is about.  In the preamble to the Constitution, which we take an oath to, we talk about forming a more perfect union.  A more perfect union to reflect the values of our country.  And so we are here today to act on those values to the hate crimes prevention legislation. 

'My colleagues have spoken eloquently as to why this is about the values of our country.  They have spoken clearly about the need for this legislation.  But it bears repeating that many law enforcement organizations, including the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the National District Attorneys Association, the National Sheriffs Association, the Police Executive Research Forum, as well as nearly 30 state Attorneys General across the country, support the need for federal hate crimes prevention legislation.  They are joined by the more than 230 civil rights, education, religious, and civic organizations who have voiced their support. 

'Let us be clear that this Congress, that this House of Representatives, has heard their call.  Hate crimes have no place in America.  We must act to end hate crimes and save lives.

'This legislation will help prevent bias-motivated violence based on race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, national origin, or disability, while respecting the First Amendment rights of free speech and religious expression.  It increases the ability of local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies to solve a wide range of violent hate crimes. 

'We in our country take pride in saying that we moved to end discrimination of all kinds.  Today, we have an opportunity to end discrimination and the violence that goes with it.

'Who of us can think of the story of the Shepard family and the Byrd family and so many examples and not say that is wrong?  At the very least, we can pass legislation that tells federal authorities that they can assist state and local authorities in enforcing the law.  Over 100,000 hate crimes have been reported since 1991; there are so many more that go unreported.  Many of them unprosecuted. 

'So today, let us take this step forward that is consistent with the values that all are equal and with our faith that we are all God's children.  And to form a more perfect union.  I urge a yes vote.'