Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Leahy To Introduce Hate Crimes Bill As Amendment To Defense Authorization Act

Sen. Patrick Leahy yesterday announced that he would introduce the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act as a bipartisan amendment to the National Defense Authorization bill this week. Last year the Senate approved the measure as an amendment to the Defense Authorization Bill, but it was removed in conference after opposition from the Bush White House. (See prior posting.) The most controversial portion of the bill expands coverage of existing hate crimes legislation to cover crimes aimed at victims because of their sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or disability. It also expands the situations in which the federal government can prosecute hate crimes based on race, religion or national origin by eliminating the requirement that they involve certain federally protected activities. The bill also provides for federal assistance grants to state and local governments, allows the federal government to prosecute in certain cases where states have failed to do so, and expands the statistics on hate crimes that will be collected by the federal government. The House passed a similar hate crimes measure in April as a free-standing bill. (See prior posting.)