South Florida Congresswoman Stands Strong Against Hate

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Posted on April 30, 2009 - 12:23pm by Anonymous.

April 29th was a banner day for the LGBT community. The House of Representatives passed the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act for the second time with a vote of 249-175.

The debate yesterday was a bit of an emotional roller coaster, offering hours of toxic falsehoods spewed by some members and heroic, poignant, and inspirational words by others.

In recent weeks, Florida Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schults (Fl - 20) cosponsored the bill and was joined by Robert Wexler (Fl - 19) as both fought passionately about the need for passage.

Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz has a long history of supporting LGBT civil rights and yesterday was no exception. Her incisive words cut through the smoke screens and directly to the point. In the Congresswoman's own words, "Hate crimes do more than inflict incalculable pain and suffering on individual victims. Hate crimes target groups and terrorize communities. Left unpunished, hate crimes send powerful messages of intolerance. Hate crimes leave both the victim and others in their group feeling vulnerable, isolated and unprotected."

We applaud and thank all of the members of the Florida delegation who voted in favor of the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crime Prevention Act (click here to see the list).

Missed the testimony? No problem, click here to watch all 6 hours.

Here's a complete transcript of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz's impressive stand:

Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of this legislation. Mr. Speaker, I wonder if our friends on the other side of the aisle would be singing the same offensive tune if we were talking about hate crimes based on race or religion. It seems to me that it is the category of individual that they are offended by, rather than the fact that we have hate crimes laws at all. We’ve already heard the powerful story of Matthew Shepherd, his mother Judy addressed our caucus this week. As the speaker noted we are all inspired by her ten year quest to turn her pain and tears into change, because these cases are tragic and real.

Ryan Skipper was a 25 year old gay man from Polk County, FL. Like Matthew, Ryan’s body was found murdered and dumped along the side of the road about two years ago. Ryan’s body had been stabbed 20 times and his throat was slit. His car was found abandoned nearby and contained the fingerprints of his two killers. One of his killers told police his conduct was justified to rebuff unwanted sexual advances.

Because there was no hate crime law with which to charge Ryan’s killer in Florida- only one of Ryan’s killers has been convicted, and that was of a lesser charge. Why do we need a hate crimes law? Because hate crimes do more than threaten the safety and well-being of individuals. Hate crimes do more than inflict incalculable pain and suffering on individual victims. Hate crimes target groups and terrorize communities. Left unpunished, hate crimes send powerful messages of intolerance. Hate crimes leave both the victim and others in their group feeling vulnerable, isolated and unprotected.

I’m proud to co-sponsor this legislation again this Congress, and commend my colleague Judiciary Committee Chairman, John Conyers, and my committee colleague, Tammy Baldwin, for their leadership in bringing this issue forward again this year. Let’s announce here and now that we will not tolerate this kind of terror in America. Let’s vow that we will not turn a blind eye to hatred and violence in America. And let us pledge to give police and prosecutors all of the resources they need to stamp out this scourge.

Mr. Speaker, Matthew Shepherd and Ryan Skipper may be gone, but we can honor their lives today, and I urge my colleagues to support this important legislation.

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