Hate crimes bill passes House Judiciary, next stop House floor

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Hate Crimes BillThe Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, sometimes referred to as the Matthew Shepard Act, made significant progress today passing 15-12 in the House Judiciary Committee, despite GOP members efforts to ammend the bill with frivolous amendments and gutting the “gender identity” language from the bill entirely.

Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF), praised the committee vote in the Washington Blade:

“Laws ultimately reflect a nation’s values, and this legislation, once passed, will send a strong message that America rejects all forms of hate violence, including bias-motivated crimes against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people,” she said. “This committee vote marks the beginning of the end of a long-fought battle.”

There was protracted discussion in committee Wednesday and Thursday of several amendments to the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act. The measure is intended, among other things, to allow the Justice Department to assist in the prosecution of hate crimes committed against LGBT people that result in death or serious injury.

Amendments offered by the committee’s Republican members, though, sought to include unborn children, military members and pregnant women in the measure. Another proposed amendment sought to strip passages regarding “gender identity” from the bill. The amendments were voted down.

The bill may come up for a vote on the House floor as early as next week.

Hate crimes legislation has languished under Republican leadership since 1997, even after the death of Matthew Shepard, a college student who was murdered in 1998 for being gay. But now with a Democratic Congress and President the bill has a legitimate chance of becoming law.

Recently, Matthew’s mom Judy Shepard made an impassioned plea for the bill’s passage. Watch.

For more information visit http://www.FightHateNow.org.

Post by ILO on 04/23/09 at 12:17 pm