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Public Statements

The Matthew Shepard Act of 2007

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

THE MATTHEW SHEPARD ACT OF 2007 -- (Senate - September 30, 2008)

Mr. SMITH. Mr. President, I rise today to speak about the need for hate crimes legislation. Each Congress, Senator Kennedy and I introduce hate crimes legislation that would add new categories to current hate crimes law, sending a signal that violence of any kind is unacceptable in our society. Likewise, each Congress I have come to the floor on many occasions to highlight a separate violent, hate-motivated crime that has occurred in our country.

On Saturday, September 6, 2008, in Portland, ME, a 31-year-old resident was walking home at 12:30 a.m. when he was stopped by two men and assaulted. According to the police statement, one of the assailants used homophobic slurs toward the victim, questioning his sexual orientation before attacking him. The police are searching for two suspects in connection with the weekend assault that they have classified as a hate crime. The victim was hit once in the head and recalls little else, the police said. A passerby reportedly found the victim unconscious on the sidewalk and called police. The victim was taken by ambulance to Maine Medical Center where he was admitted for treatment of a head injury.

I believe that the Government's first duty is to defend its citizens, to defend them against the harms that come out of hate. The Matthew Shepard Act is a symbol that can become substance. I believe that by passing this legislation and changing current law, we can change hearts and minds as well.

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