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Talking Points: Stopping Hate Crime

Under current law, the federal government is not able to help in cases where women, gay, transgender, or disabled Americans are victims of bias-motivated crimes for who they are.

Since 1991, more than 100,000 hate crime offenses have been reported to the FBI. In 2005 alone, there were at least 1,017 crimes based on sexual orientation, yet under the current law “the federal government is not able to help in cases where women, gay, transgender or disabled Americans are victims of bias-motivated crimes for who they are.” Today, the House is voting on the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, a bipartisan bill that would enable federal officials to work with state and local officials to investigate and prosecute hate crimes. Far right-wing groups are aggressively opposing this legislation, spreading baseless myths and shrill rhetoric. The last time the House passed this legislation in September 2005, 223 lawmakers supported it, including 30 Republicans. Tell Congress to support LLEHCPA again today here.

  • Hate crimes legislation gives necessary assistance to federal, state, and local authorities to curb these terrible crimes. Despite the right wing’s rhetoric that hate crimes are covered by current law, LLEHCPA would give the federal government much-needed new authority to assist states in going after hate crimes in all categories. Under the current federal hate crime law, enacted in 1969, the federal government has the authority to investigate and prosecute “attacks based on race, color, national origin, and religion and because the victim was attempting to exercise a federally protected right.” LLEHCPA would give the federal government the ability to help where women, gay, transgender, or disabled Americans are also the victims of bias-motivated crimes. A 2006 Harris Interactive poll found that “64 percent of gays and lesbians are concerned about being the victim of a bias-motivated crime.” While organizations like the Family Research Council are right that physical attacks can already be prosecuted, hate crimes are especially pernicious. Eighty-five percent of law enforcement officials believe “bias-motivated violence to be more serious than similar crimes not motivated by bias.” In addition, as the Human Rights Campaign notes, “Too many local jurisdictions lack the full resources necessary to prosecute hate crimes.” The new legislation would allow federal officials to get involved where local law enforcement is unwilling or unable to do so. It is endorsed by 31 state attorneys general and leading law enforcement agencies, including the National Sheriffs’ Association and the International Association of Chiefs of Police.
  • The hate crime bill goes after criminal action, not speech or expression. “There’s a vote coming up on some insidious legislation in the United States Congress that could silence and punish Christians for their moral beliefs,” said Focus on the Family founder James Dobson on his Tuesday broadcast. “That means that as a Christian — if you read the Bible a certain way with regard to morality — you may be guilty of committing a ‘thought crime.'” Chuck Colson, former chief counsel to President Nixon, wrote that “pastors who preach sermons giving the biblical view of homosexuality could be prosecuted.” None of these statements are true. LLEHCPA goes after criminal action, like physical assaults, not name-calling or verbal abuse. The bill clearly states that “evidence of expression or associations of the defendant may not be introduced as substantive evidence at trial, unless the evidence specifically relates to that offense.”
  • Hate crimes legislation is designed to protect all Americans from hate crimes. Rev. Louis P. Sheldon, head of the Traditional Values Coalition, recently said, “Liberal and homosexual extremists want to silence people of faith whose religious beliefs condemn homosexual behavior. This bill effectively adds a footnoted exception to the First Amendment of the Constitution — ‘none of these protections apply to Christians or other people of faith.'” But the bill before the House today ensures that all Americans are protected against hate crimes. Sheldon and other members of the radical right are in the minority. “According to a new poll conducted by Hart Research, large majorities of every major subgroup of the electorate — including such traditionally conservative groups as Republican men (56 percent) and evangelical Christians (63 percent) — express support for strengthening hate crimes laws to include sexual orientation and gender identity.”