President Clinton is urging support for legislation that would expand federal hate crimes laws to include offenses committed because of an individual’s sex, sexual orientation, or disability. Current hate crimes criteria include race, color, religion, or national origin.
In addition to expanding the criteria upon which hate crimes charges can be filed, the bill would also make it easier to prosecute individuals under federal hate crimes laws. Current federal law only protects individuals who are attacked while they are trying to engage in certain federally-protected activities, such as attending a public school or serving on a jury.
Under the new law, colleges would be required to report specific data about hate crimes occurring on their campuses each year. A new educational program targeted at middle-school students would also be instated. AT&T, Court TV, Cable in the Classroom, and National Middle Schools Association would work with the Justice and Education departments to develop anti-intolerance curricula for this program.
President Clinton proposed similar hate crimes legislation last year, but the House and Senate both failed to act on it. Sens. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Arlen Specter (R-PA) and Reps. John Conyers (D-MI) and Connie Morella (R-MD) resurrected the legislation last month.
Of the forty states that have hate crime laws, 21 cover sexual orientation, 21 cover disability, and 22 cover sex.