Bill Closes Gaps in 40 Year Old Law, Ensures More Americans are Protected
Congressman Joe Baca (D-Rialto) today joined a bipartisan majority in the House of Representatives to support legislation that will protect more Americans by expanding the definition of hate crimes, and providing law enforcement officers with the tools they need to prosecute these heinous crimes. H.R. 1913, the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, was approved by a 249 - 175 vote.
"Violent hate and discrimination against anyone will not be tolerated in our society, plain and simple," said Rep. Baca. "This long overdue bill closes gaps in federal law to help combat hate crimes. It also gives our local law enforcement officers the tools they have sought to fully prosecute these terrible crimes and deter them in the future."
Under current law, the federal government can only investigate hate crimes motivated by the victim's race, color, religion or national origin. The Hate Crimes Prevention Act extends federal jurisdiction to hate crimes motivated by the victim's actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or disability, and provides assistance to state and local law enforcement to streamline the investigation and prosecution of hate crimes.
A similar bill passed the House with 237 votes in the last Congress, but was held up by the threat of a veto from former President Bush. Now, with President Barack Obama in the White House, law enforcement officers will have the tools to combat hate crimes and the victims of these crimes will finally have an opportunity for justice. The current bipartisan legislation is supported by a broad coalition, including more than 300 law enforcement, religious, women's advocacy, civil rights and disability rights organizations.
"It is high time that we listen to the calls from law enforcement that all victims must be treated equally," concluded Rep. Baca. "With today's long overdue legislation, Congress is sending a clear message to the victims of hate crimes and their families: we are standing with you."