U.S. Senator Chris Coons, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and co-chair of the Senate Law Enforcement Caucus, spoke in Dover Friday morning at a federal training for Delaware law enforcement officers on the investigation and prosecution of hate crimes.
"When Congress passed and President Obama signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, it did more than extend protections of hate crimes law to actual or perceived gender and sexual orientation," Senator Coons said. "It made a statement that in the United States of America, we do not accept hate and bias against our friends and neighbors. The heartbreaking deaths of the men this law is named for remind us we can never let up. We can never, ever stop fighting for justice and equality in our communities."
Matthew Shepard was 21 when he was tortured and murdered by two men in Laramie, Wyoming, because he was gay. His mother, Judy Shepard, has devoted her life since to preventing similar tragedies, and was scheduled to speak at the training in Dover on Friday.
The Senator also spoke about the Violence Against Women Act, which the Senate passed on Thursday. Among its provisions is a measure that would prevent recipients of VAWA grant funding from denying services to individuals who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.
"Every single American should be able to count on the law to protect them from domestic violence and sexual assault, regardless of who they are, where they live or whom they love," Senator Coons said. "That means giving law enforcement the tools they need to investigate and prosecute these crimes while investing in the kind of community-based approach we have here in Delaware."
The Senator thanked the Department of Justice for hosting the training, and praised those who attended for their commitment to serving their communities.