By a vote of 60 to 39, the Senate passed the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which would permit federal prosecution of hate crimes based on a person’s actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.
This is the most comprehensive hate crimes legislation ever, and with this new law federal investigators could step in if local authorities were unwilling or unable to act, or needed federal assistance. Already, George W. Bush has announced his intent to veto the legislation.
Currently federal laws define hate crimes as those in which the victim is targeted because of her or his race, color, religion, or national origin. Yet we know that these are not the only groups targeted for hate-based violence.
The National Organization for Women knows first hand how deeply this kind of terror and danger can affect entire communities, destroying lives and livelihoods. Expanding the definition of hate crimes is important, if not critical, to women’s overall health and safety.
The Senate did the right thing by voting for legislation that will help prosecute, reduce, and perhaps eventually eliminate, hate-based crimes. We urge George Bush to do the same.