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Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act Of 2007

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

LOCAL LAW ENFORCEMENT HATE CRIMES PREVENTION ACT OF 2007 -- (House of Representatives - May 03, 2007)


Mr. LARSON of Connecticut. Mr. Speaker, today I rise in strong support of H.R. 1592, the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which would address the appalling crimes that continue to occur today simply because of a person's race, religion, national origin, ethnicity, gender, disability or sexual orientation.

I am proud to be an original cosponsor of H.R. 1592 because it is the government's responsibility to defend the civil liberties of every American and prosecute acts of aggression directed at a specific group of individuals. Current federal law provides for enhanced sentencing for hate crimes, however, the vast majority of these crimes are not tried in federal court. This bill would make it a federal crime to cause, or attempt to cause, bodily harm to another person through the use of fire, a firearm, or an explosive device because of the victim's actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender or sexual orientation. Opponents of this bill claim that it would chip away at First Amendment rights. On the contrary, H.R. 1592 would protect First Amendment speech and is only intended to prosecute acts of violence.

The bill would also provide federal assistance to states and local jurisdictions to prosecute hate crimes. Specifically, the measure would authorize the Attorney General to make grants available to state and local law enforcement agencies that have incurred extraordinary expenses associated with the investigation and prosecution of hate crimes. Currently, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) collects statistics on crimes based on race, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, and disability. This legislation would require that the FBI collect statistics on gender and gender identity-related bias crimes.

I applaud Chairman CONYERS and members of the House Judiciary Committee for their tireless efforts and leadership on this landmark legislation. I would also like to single out the efforts of the gentlewoman from Wisconsin, Ms. BALDWIN, and the gentleman from Massachusetts, Mr. FRANK, for their leadership on this issue. During my tenure in the House of Representatives and as a father of three children, I have been a consistent supporter of this measure and believe it is a tragedy that terrible injustices continue to occur in the 21st century. Our nation was founded on the principles of liberty and justice for all and these hate crimes run counter to our national conscience.

I believe Robert F. Kennedy spoke most eloquently on this issue while commenting on the loss of Dr. Martin Luther King: ``What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence or lawlessness; but love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country *.*.*'' Today's legislation takes us one further step towards the kind of nation Senator Kennedy and Dr. King worked for and I encourage my colleagues to join me in voting for it.


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