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Sen. Kennedy and Others Deliver Remarks on Hate Crimes Legislation

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Well, I want to thank all of you for being here today, and I want to thank particularly Senators Kennedy and Smith, as well as Specter and Boxer, Senator Hatch and others of my colleagues who in a bipartisan way have been speaking out against hatred and in support of this hate crimes bill for a number of years now.

And for too long we've been debating this issue. Unfortunately, we've not been able to get it to the point where it can actually be signed into law, although with the courageous leadership not only of my colleagues like Senators Kennedy and Smith but people like Ms. Shepard and others we've made progress in the Senate. And now we need to do it again.

You know, many people say we don't need this legislation because every crime is a hate crime. Well, with all due respect, that is simply wrong.


Everyone here knows that hate crimes are different, and what happened to Matthew Shepard, what happened to Trev, what happened to others that you know about, that you'll hear about, was because they were perceived by their attackers as different.

And if people harm another person simply because they don't like or approve of their color of skin, their gender, their sexual orientation, their disability, then we need to punish them to the full extent of the law by making a values statement about how unacceptable that is in American society.

So while we've made a lot of progress in supporting each other and in embracing our diversity, we have a long way to go until we realize our goal of equal justice under law.

And a hate crime doesn't just affect an individual. It really does diminish all of us. It hurts an entire community, and it does undermine the values that we hold dear.

Now we need to make it easier to prosecute these crimes.

I very much appreciate what Senator Specter said from his perspective as a former district attorney. Gay or straight, white or black or brown, Muslim, Jew or Christian—no person in this country should be any less safe because of what they look like, where they come from, or any other aspect of who they are.

And I think that is long overdue, and I hope we're going to be successful this time around, and I thank all of you for helping
us to make it happen.

Thank you very much.


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