Friday, April 10, 2009

H.R. 1913 - By Mark R. Kerr

Legislation to expand current federal statutes that deal with hate crimes has again been introduced, in the 111th Congress, when on Thursday, April 2, H.R. 1913, was filed by U.S. Representative John Conyers, D-MI and 42 cosponsors, for consideration in the Chief Clerk’s office of the U.S. House of Representatives. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) own statistics, based on voluntary reporting, show that since 1991 more than 100,000 hate crime offenses have been reported.

In his comments introducing the bill, Rep. John Conyers stated, “Hate crime statistics do not speak for themselves. Behind each of the statistics is an individual or community targeted for violence for no other reason than race, religion, color, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or disability. Law enforcement authorities and civic leaders have learned that a failure to address the problem of bias crime can cause a seemingly isolated incident to fester into widespread tension that can damage the social fabric of the wider community. The Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 is a constructive and measured response to a problem that continues to plague our nation. These are crimes that shock and shame our national conscience. They should be subject to comprehensive federal law enforcement assistance and prosecution.”

H.R. 1913, if approved and signed into law, would give the:

U.S. Justice Department the power to investigate and prosecute bias motivated violence where the perpetrator has selected the victim because of the person's actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability;

Ability to provide the Justice Department with the ability to aid state and local jurisdictions either by lending assistance or where local authorities are unwilling or unable, by taking the lead in investigations and prosecutions of violent crime resulting in death or serious bodily injury, motivated by bias, and state and local communities, grants funding to combat violent crimes committed by juveniles, train law enforcement officers, or to assist in state and local investigations and prosecutions of bias motivated crimes.

National LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) organizations reacted positively to Conyer’s reintroduction of a federal hate crimes bill, H.R. 1913 for this 111th Congress.

“Introduction of this important legislation marks the beginning of the end of a long-fought battle. After more than a decade, it is time for us to finally pass legislation that strengthens and expands federal hate crimes law; a bill that includes sexual orientation and gender identity. Laws ultimately reflect a nation’s values and this legislation, once passed, will send a strong message that America rejects all forms of hate violence, including bias-motivated crimes against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people,” Rea Carey, Executive Director of the NGLTF said in a statement. “We are pleased that President Obama has expressed support for this legislation by voting for it in the Senate and by announcing he will sign the bill when it comes to his desk. We hope that the administration will play a role in assisting with passage in both the House and Senate.”

“Each year, thousands of Americans are violently attacked just because of who they are. These crimes not only harm individuals, they terrorize entire communities. After more than a decade of delay, it’s time to provide local police and sheriffs’ departments with the full resources of the Justice Department to address vicious hate crimes,” said Human Rights Campaign (HRC) President Joe Solmonese in a statement.

H.R. 1913 has been referred to the U.S. House of Representatives, Judiciary Committee, chaired by Representative Conyers. To help lobby for the passage of this bill that has been introduced and voted on seven times in the past ten years, the HRC has set up a web site to organize the LGBT to help the effort, includes testimonials, up-to-the minute updates on Congressional action, and specific action voters can take to ensure its passage and is also linked to their other lobbyist/activist site,, that confronts right-wing lies and distortions repeatedly used to defeat LGBT equality measures.

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