Tuesday, April 28, 2009

NAACP calls for swift enactment of expanded Hate Crime prevention legislation

Legislation is currently scheduled for House floor action TODAY! (4-29-09)

Hate crimes remain a festering and horrifying problem in the United States. This form of domestic terrorism is designed to intimidate whole communities on the basis of personal and immutable characteristics – and can spark widespread neighborhood conflicts, even damaging the very fabric of our society. Although there are laws on the books that help deter hate crimes and protect their victims, significant gaps remain unfilled. Sadly, the number of hate crimes in America continues to increase, and the number of "hate groups" (an organization that promotes hate or violence towards members of an entire class of people, based on characteristics such as race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation) in the United States increased to 926 in 2008, up 54% since 2000.

Currently, the federal government is allowed to intervene in the investigation and prosecution of hate crimes only if they occur on federal property or if the victim was participating in one of six very specific activities, such as voting. The "Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act" (H.R. 1913, introduced by Congressman John Conyers, MI) would expand existing hate crime prevention laws and allow the federal government to assist the local authorities in the investigation and prosecution of crimes motivated by hate, regardless of where or what the victim was doing at the time the crime occurred. It would also expand the definition of a hate crime to include those motivated by the victim's disability, gender or sexual orientation and it would provide money to states to develop hate crime prevention programs.

In short, this proposed hate crimes prevention legislation would allow the federal government to work with state and local authorities to prevent or, if necessary, punish hate crimes to the fullest extent possible. States will continue to play the primary role in the prosecution of hate crime violence, however H.R. 1913 will compliment state statutes and assist states in securing the very complicated and expensive cases through prosecution.

H.R. 1913 is scheduled to be considered by the full House of Representatives tomorrow, Wednesday, April 29. We must encourage all of our elected representatives to support this bill and to oppose any weakening amendments.

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