Thursday, April 12, 2007


WASHINGTON — Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese and Judy Shepard, executive director of the Matthew Shepard Foundation and mother of hate crime victim Matthew Shepard, joined Sens. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., and Gordon Smith, R-Ore., today as they introduced the bipartisan Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act. The Senate bill would strengthen the ability of law enforcement officials to investigate and prosecute the more than 9,000 bias-motivated, violent crimes reported each year. An identical bill (H.R. 1592) was introduced last month in the U.S. House of Representatives by Reps. John Conyers Jr., D-Mich., and Mark Kirk, R-Ill.

“For over a decade, a broad coalition of civil rights, law enforcement, religious and community organizations, including the Human Rights Campaign, has been calling for justice. We have been asking our elected leaders to understand that bias-motivated violence is a persistent and pernicious problem in our country,” said Solmonese. “The statistics speak for themselves. Approximately 25 hate crimes are reported each day in our country. And more simply go unreported. One in six of these crimes is motivated by the victim’s sexual orientation. And many others are motivated by the victim’s gender identity, gender or disability.”

“This is one of the most important pieces of federal legislation to help erase hate in our society today. I urge every American to contact your leaders, including the president, and encourage them to support this bill,” said Judy Shepard. “Whether it be for Matthew or for the thousands of other victims of hate crimes, I am personally asking for your help to ensure this important piece of legislation passes.”

The LLEHCPA adds sexual orientation, gender, gender identity and disability to existing federal law conferring authority on the federal government to investigate and prosecute violent crimes. This authority already exists for crimes committed because of the victim’s race, color, religion or national origin and because the victim was attempting to exercise a federally protected right. The bill ensures a federal backstop to assist local law enforcement in those cases in which they request assistance or fail to adequately investigate or prosecute these serious crimes. The bill would also provide assistance to local law enforcement for investigating and prosecuting bias-motivated violent crimes.

The Human Rights Campaign worked closely with House and Senate legislators as the companion bills were drafted and introduced.


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