Statement On Cloture On The Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act Of 2009 As An Amendment To The National Defense Authorization Bill

The Senate is considering the bipartisan Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 as an amendment to the pending National Defense Authorization BillThis important civil rights bill has been pending for more than a decade and has passed the Senate numerous times – in 2007, 2004, 2000, and 1999.  It also has the support of the Attorney General, and the President has asked Congress to take swift action on this bill. 

I thank Senator Collins, Senator Snowe, and the 33 other bipartisan cosponsors for their support for my amendment, which contains the full text of The Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act introduced by Senator Kennedy.  I commend the senior Senator from Massachusetts for his steadfast leadership over the last decade in working to expand our Federal hate crimes laws.  I thank the Majority Leader for offering this amendment on my behalf while I chaired the hearing on the nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to be an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court.  I had hoped that we would reach a time agreement or at least an agreement to proceed to this bipartisan amendment.  Yet some have sought to further delay passage of this critical measure.  

The hate crimes amendment would improve existing law by making it easier for Federal authorities to investigate and prosecute crimes of racial, ethnic, or religious violence.  Victims will no longer have to engage in a narrow range of activities, such as serving as a juror, to be protected under Federal law.  In addition, the hate crimes amendment will provide assistance and resources to State, local, and tribal law enforcement to address hate crimes.  It also focuses the attention and resources of the Federal government on the problem of crimes committed against people because of their sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or disability, which is a long-overdue protection. 

As a former State prosecutor, respect for local and State law enforcement is important to me.  This amendment was carefully crafted to strike a proper balance between federal and local interests by allowing the Federal government to appropriately support, but not to substitute for, State and local law enforcement. 

I come from a state that passed a law almost a decade ago to expand protections for victims of violence motivated by sexual orientation and gender identity and to increase penalties for hate crimes to deter such violence.  Unfortunately, not all States offer these protections – protections that all Americans deserve.  We need a strong Federal law to serve as a backstop to prevent hate motivated violence in America.

The recent tragic events at the Holocaust museum have made clear that these vicious crimes continue to haunt our country.  This bipartisan legislation is carefully designed to help law enforcement most effectively respond to this problem. We stand to make real progress toward expanding Federal protections for victims of bias-motivated violence when we vote for cloture to end debate on the motion to proceed to this amendment.  

Senators from both sides of the aisle support this amendment.  I call on all my fellow Senators to join me in support of this amendment and to vote to end the delay of Senate consideration of this important measure because expanding hate crimes protections and providing support to State, local, and tribal enforcement efforts are long overdue.  That is why a vote for this amendment is necessary.   

#  #  #  #  #

Press Contact

David Carle: 202-224-3693