April 12, 2007

Whitehouse Backs Senate Effort to Strengthen Hate Crime Statute

New Legislation Gives Local Law Enforcement Tools to Combat Crimes of Bias

Washington, D.C. – Citing the need to give local law enforcement stronger tools to prosecute hate crimes, U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today added his support to new legislation that will include sexual orientation, gender, gender identity and disability status as part of the federal hate crimes statute.

“Crimes of hate are unacceptable and should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” said Whitehouse. “I’m proud to support legislation that aims to end these crimes of bias forever.”

Currently, only 27 states and Washington, D.C. classify gender-based crimes as hate crimes; 31 states and Washington, D.C. include sexual-orientation based crimes; and only 31 states and Washington, D.C. include disability-based crimes. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has documented more than 114,000 hate crimes since 1991.

The Local Law Enforcement Hate Crime Prevention Act of 2007, introduced today by Senators Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Gordon Smith (R-Ore.), will give local law enforcement officials important tools, like training or direct assistance, to combat crimes that show evidence of prejudice based on sexual orientation, gender and gender identity, and disability status.

The bill also would encourage Americans to report hate crimes, through increased public education and awareness, and would allow local prosecutors to pursue bias-motivated crime under federal law in areas in which state statutes are inadequate.

A similar version of the measure, which had broad, bipartisan support, was passed by both the House and Senate in the 109th Congress, but was scuttled in a conference committee and ultimately did not become law.


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