By a bipartisan vote of 237 to 180, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 1592, the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2007. The proposed law will not only expand the definition of hate crimes for victims of race and religious-based violence, but for the first time will help prevent and prosecute crimes motivated by violence based on gender, gender identity, disability or sexual orientation. The legislation was passed without damaging amendments and is now headed to the Senate — although George Bush has already issued a statement saying he will veto the bill.
“The passage of this bill is significant to the National Organization for Women because we have fought for the last 15 years for an inclusive law that would protect all of those who were excluded from previous hate crime laws,” said NOW President Kim Gandy. “How dare George Bush veto a bill that does nothing more than protect vulnerable people from violence. Hate is not a family value.”
Since passage of the House bill, right-wing groups that aggressively oppose this legislation have been spreading the dishonest message that the law will threaten religious liberty. That is just plain wrong. This bill does not criminalize hate speech, only physical violence, nor does it infringe on any group’s civil rights or religious liberties.
This legislation is especially important for the girls and women of this nation. For the first time, local law enforcement will have the tools and support they need to protect the public against crimes motivated by extreme bias. Women know first hand how vicious crimes of hate violence can affect our lives. We know that hate crimes are more than individual assaults -– they send shock waves and fear throughout a whole community and segments of our diverse population.
NOW applauds Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) and Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), for introducing the bill, and all the members of the 110th Congress who have made a commitment to protect those who are targeted for hate violence.
“Imagine your daughters and sons living without fear of hate-based crimes,” says Gandy. “This legislation will give them the peace of mind that there is no place for hate violence in our society. The Senate now must do their part in protecting our loved ones.”