02/12/2007

SPLC Adds Voice to Chorus of Support for Hate Crime Legislation

 

The Southern Poverty Law Center recently joined 31 state attorneys general and more than 210 law enforcement, professional, education, civil rights, religious and civic organizations across the country in support of federal hate crime legislation.

Center President Richard Cohen wrote a letter endorsing the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2007 that will be used in a campaign to win support for the measure on Capitol Hill.

The legislation would authorize the Department of Justice to assist local authorities in investigating and prosecuting certain hate crimes. In the many cases where state hate crime laws do not cover crimes based on sexual orientation, gender and disability, it would allow federal prosecution if needed. It would also permit federal authorities to prosecute when local authorities are unable or unwilling to act.

The measure has repeatedly attracted majority, bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate. In the last session of Congress, the House approved the identical text of the legislation as an amendment to another bill by a vote of 223-199. The last time the Senate voted on the bill, in June 2004, it passed by a vote of 65-33. The bill will be introduced in the new congressional session next month.

"Hate crimes are insidious acts that tend to divide our society along its most fragile fault lines - lines of race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity and disability," Cohen said. "These loathsome crimes must be vigorously combated for the health of our nation."