Senate votes big expansion of federal hate crimes

Published July 18, 2009 by Michael C Leeson

The Associated Press: Senate votes big expansion of federal hate crimes

Hate Crime

On this day, the US Senate voted on and passed the Matthew Shepard Act (the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2007, or LLEHCPA), HR 1592.

Existing legislation:

1968 federal hate-crime law (18 U.S.C. § 245(b)(2))

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said,

“This bill simply recognizes that there is a difference between assaulting someone to steal his money, or doing so because he is gay, or disabled, or Latino or Muslim,”.

The Senate hate crimes bill is S.909

Some noted points

  • Authorises federal prosecutions of hate crimes where the state or local authorities are unwilling or unable to do so.
  • remove the current prerequisite that the victim be engaging in a federally-protected activity, like voting or going to school
  • It provides $5 million in grants to state and local law enforcement officials who have trouble meeting the costs of investigating and prosecuting these crimes.
  • require the FBI to track statistics on hate crimes against transgender people (statistics for the other groups are already tracked).
  • Prosecutions under the bill can occur only when bodily injury is involved, and not if or when a minister or protester expresses opposition to homosexuality, even if another person committing a violent action follows their statements.
  • Provisions passed restating that the bill does not prohibit constitutionally protected speech and that free speech guaranteed unless intended to plan or prepare for an act of violence.

History: S.909 – 111th Congress

Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009

  • April 2, 2009 Introduced HR1913 by Rep John Conyers bill to House of Reps
  • April 24, 2009, the House Judiciary Committee passed a new version of the bill (HR 1913) by a vote of 15–12.
  • April 29, 2009 HR1913 passed the House of Reps, by a vote of 249–175, with support from 231 Democrats and 18 Republicans
  • April 28, 2009 Sen. Ted Kennedy , D-Mass., introduced hate crimes bill as S.909
  • July 15, 2009 bill incorporated as an amendment into S.1390, the National Defence Authorisation Act for Fiscal Year 2010. By a 63-28 cloture vote


  • 45 co-sponsors
  • Pro-bill Democrats control both houses of Congress
  • Obama strong supporter


  • Infringes on states’ rights
  • Infringes on First Amendment rights to free speech
  • Obama said he would veto S.1390 if it includes more money for an F-22 fighter program he is trying to terminate.

Some 45 states have hate crimes statutes on their books and about half the states have laws covering crimes based on sexual orientation.

The FBI receives reports of nearly 8,000 hate crimes every year. Of those, about 15 percent linked to sexual orientation, which ranks third after those involving race and religion.

My comment

I am glad the bill has successfully jumped another hurdle in its 10-year plus journey, and maybe this time it will become a reality. However, there are concerns and question that really need asking at this time.

Point 1

In my own experience of discrimination, it generally take two forms

  • Verbal – Conservative rants, church dogma or red neck fury
  • Structural or implicit discrimination  this is more about omission

This bill as far as can be determined seemingly does not cover either it speaks only on violence directed at the individual or the spoken word on planning of an attack. It seems this loophole   leaves a wide open door for ongoing abuse.

Point 2 – Infringes on states’ rights

8It is not clear on how it would infringes on states’ rights, it speaks to authorising federal prosecutions of hate crimes where the state or local authorities are unwilling or unable to do so. It does seem reasonable for the Federal Government to seek justice for the citizenry where for whatever others do not.

Point 3 – Infringes on First Amendment rights to free speech

I would consider the greatest flaw in this legislation the amendment to allow haters to speak hate, it continues the grand tradition of not making people fully accountable for matters to which they speak. In our daily life how often, do we hold our tongue out of respect this loophole allows hate mongers to not only promote the issue to which this article seeks to address? However, allows these people to incite others to violence without holding them accountable.

Point 4

In the incorporation of this Act into S.1390, has the Right sort to block this bill once again, as Obama said he would if there was funding for the F 22 program attached? Oh when middle aged heterosexual white men feel threatened they seem to try anything to ensure the preservation of their power base and therefore the status quo. the duplicity of it all

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