Saturday, April 25, 2009

It's Almost Done....Finally

Another important step.

The long awaited hate crimes legislation won approval from the House Judiciary Committee this past week; committee members backed the bill, 15-12, following a second day of debate, and now the bill is off to the House for a vote which may happen as early as next week.

Executive director of the NGLTF--National Gay & Lesbian Task Force--praised the committee vote, saying, "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...This committee vote marks the beginning of the end of a long-fought battle."

Amendments to the bill sought to include unborn children, military members and pregnant women in the measure, and another amendment pushed by the Repugs wanted to strip "gender identity" from the bill.

The amendments were voted down.

Democratic Representative Jerrold Nadler, one of the bill's original co-sponsors, was pleased the committee backed a measure to give law enforcement agencies more tools to fight hate crimes. "The Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act is an essential step toward giving teeth to our local and national hate crime laws," he said. "That Americans would be singled out and victimized because of their race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or religion is despicable. That our government currently lacks the ability to fully investigate such heinous crimes and prosecute the perpetrators is shameful."

Sexual orientation-inclusive hate crimes bills have languished in Congress since the Clinton presidency, but the drive to pass hate crimes Legislation gained momentum after Matthew Shepard's brutal murder in 1998. In his memory, versions of federal hate crimes legislation have sometimes been known as the Matthew Shepard Act.

I can think of a more fitting way to honor Matthew Shepard's life than to see this bill come into law.

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