Leader Hoyer Statement on
Hate Crimes Prevention Act
Says Bill Continues Our History of Combating
Crimes Based on Prejudice
Click here to view video of Majority Leader Hoyer's full statement.
WASHINGTON, DC - House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (MD) spoke on the House Floor today in support of H.R. 1592, the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
"Mr. Speaker, today, through this legislation - 'the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act' - the Members of this body will make a strong statement in favor of values that unite us as Americans: tolerance, respect for our differences, and justice and accountability for those who perpetrate violent acts against others.
"It is long past time 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.
"Furthermore, the bill expands current law to prohibit the same conduct, if such conduct is motivated on the basis of the victim's gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.
"Mr. Speaker, the fact is, the federal government has long had a history of combating crimes based on prejudice. This bill simply expands the current law to groups that historically have been affected by violence - and thus it responds to the reality in America today.
"According to the FBI, race ranks first among motivations for hate crimes - and sexual orientation ranks second among the reasons that people are targeted.
"Some people ask: Why is this legislation even necessary? To them, I answer: because brutal 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.
"Let us be clear: This legislation does not affect free speech, or punish beliefs or thoughts. It only seeks to punish violent acts.
"Furthermore, Mr. Speaker, this bill would allow the federal government to provide assistance to state and local law enforcement officials to investigate and prosecute hates crimes, and would clarify the conditions under which such crimes could be federally investigated and prosecuted.
"Enacting these important additions to current law will send a very powerful message that crimes committed against any American - just because of who he or she is - are absolutely unacceptable.
"Not surprisingly, this legislation is supported by 31 state attorneys general, and more than 280 national law enforcement, professional, education, civil rights, religious and civic organizations - including the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the National District Attorneys Association and the National Sheriffs Association.
"I urge my colleagues: Vote for this legislation - not only because it is important and necessary but also because it is the right thing to do."