The Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act was reintroduced in the US Senate yesterday by a bi-partisan coalition. The bill would amend existing federal hate crimes laws to include crimes where the victims were targeted on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, gender, and disability. It also would eliminate a requirement that the victim was engaged in one of several “federally protected activities” at the time of the crime in order to be protected by these laws. Previous versions of the bill faced various legislative roadblocks under the Bush administration.
Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee and is sponsoring the legislation, said in a statement “This is a bipartisan bill designed to combat crimes that have long terrorized communities and remain a serious problem in this country. It is a matter of simple justice, and it is past time for Congress to enact this bill and strengthen the government’s role in preventing and punishing crimes motivated by hate.”
Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese said “After more than a decade of delay and tens of thousands of additional victims, now is the time for this critical piece of legislation to be signed into law. We stand with the more than 300 law enforcement, civil rights and religious organizations supporting this bill that would provide local police and sheriffs’ departments with the tools and resources they need to ensure that entire communities are not terrorized by hate violence.”