WASHINGTON, DC - House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (MD) spoke on the House Floor today in support of the Hate Crimes Prevention Act. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“This legislation—The Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act—is a powerful statement of some of our most important American values: tolerance, respect for differences, and accountability for those who are driven to violence by hate.
“This bill allows us to bring the existing Federal hate crimes law, which was enacted nearly 40 years ago, into the 21st century. Under existing law, Federal jurisdiction over hate crimes is limited to those acts directed at individuals on the basis of race, religion, color or national origin, and only when the victim is targeted because he or she is engaged in a Federally protected activity, such as voting. This legislation broadens this provision to cover all violent crimes motivated by race, religion, or national origin, when the defendant causes bodily injury or attempts to cause bodily injury.
“It also expands current law to prohibit the same conduct when motivated on the basis of the victim’s gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability. The principle is the same: hate crimes sow fear and division in our communities, no matter what group is targeted. Expanding the protections of the law responds to the reality in America today; for instance, hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation are almost equally common as hate crimes motivated by religion.
“This bill would also allow the Federal Government to provide assistance to State and local law enforcement officials to investigate and prosecute hate crimes, and would clarify the conditions under which such crimes could be federally investigated and prosecuted.
“Why is this legislation necessary? Because hate crimes motivated by race, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, and identity or disability not only injure individual victims, but also terrorize entire segments of our population and tear at our Nation’s social fabric.
“This legislation does not affect free speech, or punish beliefs or thoughts. It only seeks to punish violent acts. Enacting these important additions to current law will send a very powerful message: crimes committed against any American—just because of who he or she is—are a threat to all Americans and will be dealt with as such.
“I urge my colleagues to support this legislation because it embodies the essential American value of tolerance.”