Hate Crimes Prevention Act

Today, the House is considering H.R. 1592, the Hate Crimes Prevention Act. This bipartisan bill focuses on providing new resources to help state and local law enforcement agencies prevent and prosecute hate crimes. It also closes gaps in current federal hate crimes law.

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.

H.R. 1592 is focused on enhancing the resources of state and local law enforcement to prevent and prosecute hate crimes. All too often, state and local law enforcement alone are unable to meet the challenge of hate crime prevention and prosecution. 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.

Rep. John Lewis:
“Hate is too heavy a burden to bear. We have an opportunity for this bill to move this nation one step forward, to lay down the burden, the burden of hate. With this legislation we can send the strongest possible message that violence against our fellow citizens because of race, color, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, transgender, will not be tolerated.”
Rep. Tammy Baldwin:
“I wanted to share several stories about why this legislation is so important. I only have time for one. Let us never forget the story of Matthew Shepherd who was brutally attacked by his hateful, homophobic assailants and left to die on a fence in Wyoming. Matthew’s death generated international outrage by exposing the violent nature of hate crimes and its horrific effect on the targeted community.”
Rep. Keith Ellison:
“My question is this, why do you want to protect thugs and hate mongers? Why don’t you want to stand with the civilized community and say hate is wrong and we must stop it now?”