06.18.09

Attorney General Holder To Testify At Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing On Hate Crimes Legislation

WASHINGTON – Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), responding to requests from Committee Republicans, has scheduled a hearing on pending legislation to make needed changes to the federal hate crime law.  Attorney General Eric Holder will testify at the hearing on June 25.

The bipartisan Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act was introduced on April 28 by former Committee Chairman Senator Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.).  More than 40 Senators are cosponsors of this legislation.  The House of Representatives adopted a similar measure in April. 

“I was happy to accommodate the Ranking Member’s request to have a hearing on this important legislation,” said Leahy, who is the lead cosponsor of the bill.  “I believe the testimony the Committee will receive in support of the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act will strengthen the calls for the Senate to consider the bill at the earliest opportunity.  This legislation has been pending for more than a decade, and we have fine tuned it after long and thoughtful discussions with leaders in the civil rights and human rights communities, law enforcement, religious organizations, and the Department of Justice.  We cannot let more time pass before moving this bill toward final passage.  I strongly support its prompt enactment.”

At a Department of Justice oversight hearing on Wednesday, Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) requested that the Committee hold a hearing on the legislation.  Leahy moved promptly to notice a Committee meeting for Thursday, June 25, to receive testimony on the bill.  Additional witnesses will be announced in the days ahead.

Also at Wednesday’s hearing, Attorney General Holder said the recent shootings at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., and other recent events have erased doubt that hate crimes legislation is needed.

“If you look at the statistics, … there has been a rise in hate crimes over the last few years,” Holder testified.  “Ten years ago, I testified in favor of this bill, which is, I think, limited in its scope, but rational in what it is trying to do.”

“I think the time is right, the time is now, for the passage of this legislation,” Holder continued.

The Senate Judiciary Committee hearing will be held on Thursday, June 25, at 10:00 a.m., in room 226 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building.  The hearing will be webcast live online.

Members of the press, especially television camera crews, should contact the Senate Daily Press Gallery or the Senate Radio-Television Gallery to reserve space at the hearing.

# # # # #

Press Contact

David Carle: 202-224-3693