CONGRESSMAN BARNEY FRANK SPEAKS OUT ON HATE CRIMES BILL
Congressman Barney Frank yesterday spoke out in favor of the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act (H.R. 1913), which would expand the definition of violent hate crimes to include gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and disability, and which would allow the federal government to assist in prosecution of hate crimes. Frank has been a central force behind the legislation, which passed the House of Representatives yesterday afternoon.
Video of the Congressman's speech can be seen by clicking on the image below; the transcript from the Congressional Record follows.
Under current law, the federal government can only investigate hate crimes motivated by the victim's race, color, religion or national origin. The new legislation would include gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and disability, and would effectively cover transgender individuals. The bill applies only to violent crimes against individuals who belong to the groups covered, or who are perceived by the aggressor to belong to one of these groups.
Critics of the legislation have claimed that it infringes on the First Amendment right to freedom of speech, which it does not. The bill only pertains to violent hate crimes, not, as some have said, to words or thoughts.
During floor debate, some Republican members suggested that sexual orientation is not a motivation in violent crimes, even in the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard. Frank strongly criticized such sentiments.
The Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act is supported by a broad coalition of organizations, including law enforcement, LGBT rights, civil rights, religious, women's advocacy and disability organizations.
The Hate Crimes Prevention Act extends federal jurisdiction to hate crimes motivated by the victim's actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability, and provides assistance to state and local law enforcement to streamline the investigation and prosecution of hate crimes.
The bill passed the House by a vote of 249-175 (see roll call vote), mostly along partisan lines.