Frank Hails Planned Committee Vote on Hate Crimes Bill
Congressman Barney Frank today announced that legislation to assist state and local law enforcement with investigation and prosecution of hate crimes is moving forward in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Congressman Frank is an original co-sponsor of the bill, the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Act of 2009 (H.R. 1913), which will be considered by the House Judiciary Committee during the week of April 20th. It is expected that the bill will be passed by the committee and will come to a vote on the House floor this spring.
"I am proud to have participated in drafting a Hate Crimes Bill that is fully respectful of the rights of free speech and association," said Congressman Frank, "but also offers needed protection to those who are victims of physical crimes based on hatred. The law already increases penalties for crimes motivated by hatred in several categories, so the absence of protection for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people is particularly egregious. This bill remedies that gap in a responsible way, fully respectful of constitutional rights and I look forward to it being passed and signed by a President who is committed to ending discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity."
The legislation would address a limitation in the current law, which prevents federal involvement in investigating or prosecuting hate crimes that do not involve a federally protected activity, such as voting. The new legislation would also remove the current prohibition on federal involvement in cases having to do with gender, gender identity, sexual orientation or disability.
The new bill would not supersede state and local jurisdiction over the overwhelming majority of hate crime cases. However, it would allow the federal government to provide aid to state and local authorities at their request.
The legislation only applies to violent crimes, and it does not infringe on free speech in any way.
The FBI, which tracks hate crimes nationally, identified 7,624 such crimes in 2007 alone, the last year for which data is available. These are defined as criminal incidents which target persons because of personal characteristics, such as race, religion or sexual orientation. It is thought that these acts are widely under-reported, and that the actual number of violent hate crimes is significantly higher.
The Hate Crimes Prevention Act has received support from virtually every major law enforcement organization, including the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the National Sheriffs Association, the National District Attorneys Association, and 31 state Attorneys General.
During the last Congress, identical legislation (H.R. 1592) passed the House with wide bipartisan support (237-180), but failed to garner sufficient support to come to a vote in the Senate. It is expected that if the bill passes the House, the Senate will also bring the legislation to a vote.