Leahy Praises Passage Of Federal Hate Crimes Legislation

The U.S. Senate today approved a provision to broaden federal hate crimes law to include crimes based on gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.  Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), offered the bipartisan Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act in July.  The House has already passed the bill, and it will now head to the President’s desk to be signed into law.

The legislation was a long-time priority of Senator Edward Kennedy, who first introduced hate crimes legislation in the Senate more than a decade ago.  Leahy worked closely with Kennedy to advance the measure this year.

“This historic hate crimes provision will improve existing law by making it easier for Federal authorities to investigate and prosecute crimes of racial, ethnic, or religious violence,” said Leahy.  “Senator Kennedy provided steadfast leadership on this issue for more than a decade, and the Senate’s action today is a testament to his dedication to enacting hate crimes legislation.”

Leahy joined Kennedy to introduce the legislation in April.  In June, the Senate Judiciary Committee, which Leahy chairs, held a hearing on the legislation.  Attorney General Eric Holder testified, and expressed the administration’s strong support for the measure. The Bush administration opposed the legislation.

Leahy said, “Hate crimes instill fear in those who have no connection to the victim other than a shared characteristic such as race or sexual orientation.  For nearly 150 years, we have responded as a nation to deter and to punish violent denials of civil rights by enacting Federal laws to protect the civil rights of all of our citizens.  The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Actcontinues that tradition.” 

In July, Leahy negotiated bipartisan agreements on a handful of measures related to the hate crimes legislation that led to its adoption by the Senate.  During the Senate and House conference on the National Defense Authorization Act, Leahy worked to ensure the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act was included in the final version of the authorization bill.  The House of Representatives approved the measure earlier this month.  It will now be sent to the President to be signed into law.

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