Obama Statement on House-Senate Failure to Strengthen Hate Crimes Laws, Guarantee Equality
U.S. Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) today released the following statement after House and Senate Conferees failed to include the Matthew Shepard Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act. Obama is an original cosponsor of the legislation, which would strengthen the federal government's ability to assist local authorities in the investigation and prosecution of crimes motivated by hate and which would provide additional funds to states to develop hate crime prevention programs. The Act would have also expanded the definition of a hate crime to include those crimes perpetrated because of sexual orientation, gender, gender identity and disability. The amendment originally passed the Senate in September.
The text of the statement is below:
"The Senate took an important step forward in strengthening current law and fulfilling our nation's founding principle of equality by passing the Hate Crimes Prevention Act in September. While it is imperative that the Congress move this Defense Authorization bill, I am extremely disappointed that House and Senate negotiators failed to include this important provision in the bill being sent to the President.
"Hate crimes are unacceptable. All Americans deserve to live their lives without fear of hate driven attacks. Those who commit such heinous crimes should be punished to the fullest extent of the law, no matter whether those crimes are committed on account of race, gender, gender identity, religion, disability, or sexual orientation.
"Almost 40 years after Congress first enacted a federal hate crimes law, it is our moral obligation to continue striving for equality, and ensure that the federal government, along with state and local jurisdictions, have the tools necessary to effectively prosecute these crimes. Given the rise in hate crimes nationally, failure to pass this vital legislation is truly unacceptable."