Senate Adds Controversial Amendment to Hate Crimes Bill

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Posted on July 21, 2009 - 11:27am by Anonymous.

Senate Adds Death Penalty Amendment to Kill Hate Crimes Legislation

July 20, 2009 - Posted by Tyler Lewis

On Friday, the Senate passed the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act as an amendment to the fiscal year 2010 Department of Defense authorization bill. But today, the Senate passed an amendment to the Act, offered by Sen. Jeff Sessions, R. Ala., that would allow the death penalty to be applied in hate crimes cases under some circumstances.

LCCR and other civil and human rights groups that are supporting the Act do not support the Sessions amendment. In a letter to the Senate, the groups said: "We strongly oppose this amendment...The death penalty is irreversible and highly controversial – with significant doubts about its deterrent effect and clear evidence of disproportionate application against poor people. Moreover, there are serious, well-documented concerns about unequal and racially biased application of the death penalty."

The Sessions amendment can still be removed from the bill by a House-Senate conference committee that will meet in September to reconcile the two versions of the legislation. The full House and Senate will vote on the final version of the bill before it is sent to President Obama.

The Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act will authorize the Department of Justice to investigate and prosecute certain bias-motivated crimes based on the victim's actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or disability. Currently, the federal government can only investigate hate crimes motivated by the victim's race, color, religion, and national origin in limited cases.

It will also provide local authorities with more resources to combat hate crimes and give the federal government jurisdiction over prosecuting hate crimes in states where the current law is inadequate or when local authorities are unwilling or do not have the resources to do so themselves.

Categories: Hate Crimes & LLEHCPA

"It is long past time to send a clear and unequivocal message that hate violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people will no longer be tolerated — but it must be done in a way that saves lives, not ends them."

— National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund Executive Director Rea Carey


Walt S. (not verified) says:

July 21, 2009 - 6:29pm

Just got back from vacation, and sent the following email to our 2 senators,

Sen. Martinez,
I write to urge you to oppose amendments proposed by Sen. Sessions to the Hate Crimes Prevention Act, as incorporated in SA 1615 and 1617. Sen. Sessions is an opponent of the Act and I believe he is seeking to derail progress on the measure, after being passed by the Senate.

This law is needed. I'm sure you are familiar with the case of Ryan Skipper here in Florida. The Sherriff of Polk County implied in public statements immediately after the murder, that the victim was responsible for his own death. Attitudes such as this are too common at the local and state level, and may lead to less than vigorous prosecution of hate crimes commited against members of despised minority groups.

Please work for passage of S. 1390 as it stands, and oppose inflammatory death penalty issues Sen. Sessions is trying to inject.

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