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U.S. hate crime laws 

A timeline of legislative
activity in the federal Senate

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Timeline of hate crimes bills in the federal Senate:

bullet

1999-MAR-16: Bill  S. 622 was introduced to the Senate under the sponsorship of Senator Ted Kennedy (D, MA), 39 other Democrats and 5 Republicans. 1,2

The principal changes to the existing 1969 law would be:

bullet

Gender, disability and sexual orientation would become additional protected classifications.

bullet

The six federally protected activities would be deleted. A victim would be protected by the law at all times, not just when they were doing specific activities, like being at work, voting, or attending a public school.

The scope of the law would include:

bullet

Both men and women would be protected if the assault or threat of assault was gender-based

bullet

Quadriplegics, paraplegics, and persons who are blind, deaf etc. would be protected from attacks from individuals where the perpetrator was motivated by the victim's disability.

bullet

Heterosexuals, gays, lesbians, and bisexuals would all be protected from crimes motivated by the perpetrator's hatred of sexual orientation.

The bill was read twice and referred to Committee on Judiciary. On 1999-MAR-24, it was referred to Subcommittee on Constitution, Federalism, Property. No further no action was taken.
 

bullet

1999-JUL-21: Bill S. 1406 was introduced by Orrin Hatch (R, UT). It would provide for:

bullet

Improved collection of hate crime data, 

bullet

The detection of hate crime trends, 

bullet

The preparation of a model statute for implementation by the states, and

bullet

Making interstate travel to commit hate crime a crime. 

The bill was referred to the Committee on Judiciary on 1999-JUL-21. No further action was taken.
 

bullet

2000-MAY-12: Bill S. 2549 was introduced. It is a major piece of legislation to fund the Department of Defense during 2001. On JUN-19, Senator Levin introduced a hate crime amendment SA 3473 on behalf of Senator Kennedy. It had 19 cosponsors. One day later, the amendment was passed, without debate, by a vote of 57 to 42. 

The appropriations bill itself was also approved. The bill went before a joint House/Senate conference conference committee. The House of Representatives has passed their corresponding Defense Department appropriations bill, but it did not include a hate crimes amendment. 3 The Senate amendment did not survive the conference committee.

bullet

2004-JUN-15: S.Amdt 3183: The Senate again passed an amendment to the current Defense bill, S. 2400 which will provide funding to the Armed Forces during fiscal year 2005. The bill was called the Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Act (LLEEA).

The existing federal hate-crime legislation allows prosecution of crimes committed on the basis of race, color, religion and national origin. The Senate bill would add three new classes: gender, sexual orientation and disability. Eighteen Republicans joined with all of the 47 Democrats in the Senate to vote in favor of the bill. All of the negative votes came from Republicans. The final vote was 65 to 33, almost a two to one ratio. Senator John Kerry (D-MA) did not vote as he was campaigning for the presidency. One independent senator  was absent. 4

The bill's main sponsors were Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA) and Senator Gordon Smith (R-OR) This is the third time that the Senate has passed the bill. On both previous occasions, the House either defeated a similar measure or stripped the amendment during the conference committee. 5,6

Social and religious conservatives generally oppose the bill. Many ignore the protections that the bill would give to women, men, the disabled, and heterosexuals. They appear to be concerned almost exclusively with protections given to persons of one sexual orientation: homosexuals. A main concern is that a clergyperson, or other person, who verbally attacks gays, lesbians, or bisexuals might be charged under the act if any violent or criminal act resulted from the speech. This appears to be a misinterpretation of the bill, because it could only be applied to a person who has actually committed a violent crime. Speeches attacking gays and lesbians are not a criminal behavior; they protected speech under the First Amendment.

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2004-JUN-15: S.Amdt 3183 (Cont'd):

Some comments on the Senate bill:

bulletSenator Gordon Smith, a co-supporter of the bill, said that the debate was far more civil and respectful than it has been for in previous years. He said: "The atmosphere of the debate was dramatically improved this year. In other debates, the arguments would be laced with homophobic commentary and misrepresentations of what the bill would do."
 
bulletOlga Vives, vice-president in charge of action for the National Organization for Women congratulated the Senate, but criticized the bill because it does not also include protection for transgender persons. She said: "We know that transgender persons are more often the target of bias-motivated violent crime than other groups, yet the senators refused to add clear protections for this vulnerable population." 5

She apparently meant that the per-capita rate of violent crime is very high for transsexuals and transgender persons, rather than the absolute numbers were very high.
bulletDavid Duke, leader of the European-American Unity and Rights Organization whose web site is www.WhiteCivilRights.com, wrote:

"S625 will create a federal 'anti-hate' bureaucracy, empowering the government to establish its definition of a 'hate crime' - one which gives favored status to homosexuals and minority groups. S625 also enhances penalties for 'hate crimes,' providing up to ten years prison for those who physically harm a member of a protected groups. This bill imposes federal hate laws on the states, meddles with states' enforcement of them, and punishes states that lag behind the federal hate crime agenda." 6

bulletCathie Adams, president of Texas Eagle Forum, strongly opposed the  amendment. She said it is "against traditional values." 7
bulletTony Perkins of the Family Research Council said that the bill: "...could very easily be used against pastors who preach against same-sex 'marriage'. It is now up to House conferees to ensure that... churches are allowed to follow their beliefs and not be silenced." He does not explain how churches, which are guaranteed freedom of speech under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution could be charged with a crime. 8
 
bulletIn a similar vein, the Massachusetts Family Institute writes:  "If this 'hate crime' legislation were to become law, it would be used against individuals and churches that speak out on issues such as defending marriage and religious liberty." 9

The bill passed the Senate. On 2004-SEP-28, the House of Representatives passed a "motion to instruct" by a vote of 213 to 186. The motion recommends that the hate-crime text be retained when a joint House - Senate conference committee resolves differences between the House version of the Defense bill (which does not include hate-crime wording) and Senate version (which does include such wording). Majorities in both the Senate and House have thus indicated their support for the inclusion of the hate-crime provision. But the members of the committee are chosen by their party leaders and are not necessarily selected to reflect the opinions of the House and Senate. The hate-crime provision was deleted by the conference committee as in previous years.

According to Reuters:

"It's reprehensible that the GOP House leadership demanded the removal of the hate crimes language," Sen. Edward Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat, said in a statement. ...Backers of the hate crimes legislation, a top priority for gay rights and disabled advocacy groups, have been trying to enact it since at least 1998, when the gaps in existing law were highlighted by two heinous crimes -- the dragging death of a black man named James Byrd in Texas and the fatal beating of a young gay man named Matthew Shepard in Wyoming. In addition to including protections for gays and the disabled, the legislation would also modernize and streamline earlier hate crime legislation enacted after the 1968 murder of Martin Luther King Jr. The goal is to make it easier to prosecute such crimes. Kennedy said the extra protections also were needed because of 'the shameful increase' in the number of hate crimes against Arabs and Muslims since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Opponents of the legislation contend hate crimes were better dealt with on a local instead of a federal level, and that the measure would improperly create a special category of victims." 10

References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Senate to consider hate-crimes measure," Baptist Press, at: http://www.mcjonline.com/
  2. The text of S. 622 is available online at: http://www.traditionalvalues.org/
  3. "U.S. Senate OKs hate-crimes bill," Baptist Press, at: http://www.mcjonline.com/
  4. "Thought crimes legislation passes Senate," Family Research Council, Washington Update, 2004-JUN-16.
  5. Jan Erickson & Casey Shevin, "Senate Approves Federal Hate Crime Legislation; Fails to Include All Affected Groups," National Organization for Women, 2004-JUN-18, at: http://www.now.org/
  6. Joe Crea, "Senate again approves hate crime bill...." Washington Blade, 2004-JUN-18, at: http://www.washblade.com/
  7. Kristine Gloria, "Hate crime law goes to House with Senate's OK. Amendment would allow federal aid for law enforcment [sic]," The Daily Texan, 2004-JUN-17.
  8. Tony Perkins, "News from the Hill," Washington Update, Family Research Council, 2004-SEP-13.
  9. "Action alert: Protect free speech!," E-Alert, Massachusetts Family Institute, 2004-OCT-1.
  10.  "Hate Crimes Legislation Likely Dead for Year," Reuters, 2004-OCT-7, at: http://www.reuters.com/

Copyright © 1999 to 2009 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2009-JUN-28
Author: B.A. Robinson

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