Friday, May 01, 2009

Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Bill Passes House!

"I urge members on both sides of the aisle to act on this important civil rights issue by passing this legislation to protect all of our citizens from violent acts of intolerance." President Barack Obama

As we've stated for a decade, a hate crimes bill would pass with transpeople in it and did!

On Wednesday the Democratic-controlled United States House passed on a 249-175 vote and sent to the Senate the Federal Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009, also known as the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Bill.

"Hate crimes motivated by race, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, and identity or disability not only injure individual victims, but also terrorize entire segments of our population and tear at our nation's social fabric," House Democratic Leader Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said while urging the bills passage.

The current law which was enacted forty years ago limits federal jurisdiction over hate crimes to assaults based on race, color, religion or national origin.

The bill broadens the original law by classifying as hate crimes those attacks based on a victim's sexual orientation, gender identity or mental or physical disability.

The Senate version of the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act, was introduced Tuesday by Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) who stated the legislation is "long overdue" and "hate crimes are especially poisonous."

"They are acts of domestic terrorism that target whole communities, not just individuals," he said. "This bill will bring greater protection to our citizens and much-needed resources for state and local law enforcement to fight these vicious crimes."

Other sponsors of the Senate bill include Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Arlen Specter (D-PA). A Senate Judiciary Committee spokesperson said she didn't know when the committee would take up the legislation.

Let's savor this historic event, ensure it passed the Senate and let's get cracking on ENDA.

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