HATE CRIMES -- (Senate - May 04, 2006)
Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, I share the disappointment of many that the Republican leadership has delayed calling up the sex offender registration bill. The House passed its version last September and the Senate Judiciary Committee reported a much improved version to the full Senate last October.
When the House passed its bill, it approved an amendment to improve the Federal hate crimes laws as well. The Senate bill does not include that provision, but many of us had hoped to add it as an amendment. I urge my colleagues to support it.
The inclusion of the Federal hate crimes law is not inconsistent with the goals of the legislation to stop crimes against children. We can clearly do more to protect our communities and encourage them to do so. Hate crimes are a violation of everything our country stands for. These are crimes against entire communities, against the whole Nation, and against the fundamental ideals on which America was founded, and they have a major impact on children. The vast majority of Congress agrees.
Last year, Senator Smith and I offered our hate crimes bill as an amendment to the Defense Authorization Act, and it passed by a bipartisan vote of 65 to 33. The House passed a nearly identical hate crimes amendment by a vote of 223 to 199, which made it part of its sex offender registration bill. The substantial majority of both Houses of Congress have now voted in favor of the hate crimes proposal, and the time is long overdue to pass these protections into law.
The hate crimes bill is supported by a broad coalition. Over 200 law enforcement and civil rights groups, including the National District Attorneys Association, the National Sheriff's Association, and the National Association of Chiefs of Police, the Anti-Defamation League, and the U.S. Council of Mayors.
A strong Federal role in prosecuting hate crimes is essential for both practical and symbolic reasons. In practical terms, the bill will have a real world impact on the actual criminal investigations and prosecution. The symbolic value of the bill is equally important. Hate crimes target whole communities, not just individuals. Attacking people because they are gay, African American, Arab or Muslim or Jewish, or any other criteria is bigotry at its worst. We must say loudly and clearly to those inclined to commit them that they will go to prison if they do.
The vast majority of us in Congress recognize the importance of passing a hate crimes bill. This year we can make the statement even clearer by turning it into law.