Wednesday, August 29, 2007

California Legislature Calls on Congress, President to Pass Federal Hate Crimes Act

SACRAMENTO - August 29 - The California Senate on Monday approved a resolution urging Congress and the president to strengthen the federal hate crimes law. Senators passed AJR 29 by a 22-1 vote.

AJR 29, authored by Assemblymember Mike Eng, D-Monterey Park, and sponsored by Equality California, urges Congress and the president to protect hate crime victims who are targeted based on their real or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity or disability. It calls for passage of the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, also known as the Matthew Shepard Act. The federal measure would expand the nation’s hate crimes protections and boost law enforcement’s ability to investigate and prosecute acts of violence against all protected communities of people. Current federal law only covers hate crimes that are motivated by race, color, national origin or religion.

In July, the Assembly passed the same resolution by a 70-1 bipartisan vote, with 46 Democrats and 24 Republicans casting an “aye” vote. That vote marked the most bipartisan support ever received in the California Legislature for a measure affecting the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. Unlike the Assembly, the hate crimes measure did not receive Republican support in the Senate.

“No person should have to live in fear of being harassed, assaulted, or even murdered, simply because someone else does not accept or understand their identity, appearance or behavior,” said EQCA Executive Director Geoff Kors. “It is encouraging to see California legislators put their partisanship aside to take a stand against the intolerance and violence that plagues our community and society. Our elected leaders in Washington D.C. should take note and follow the lead set today by California lawmakers.”

The federal legislation passed the House of Representatives with a 237-180 vote, but no vote has been set for the Senate version of the bill.

Last month, a young Sacramento man lost his life in an assault that was allegedly motivated by racism and homophobia. Satendar Singh, a native of Fiji, died on July 5 as a result of the injuries he suffered during an attack that occurred four days earlier at Lake Natoma. One man has been arrested in connection with Singh’s death and authorities are still searching for the primary suspect, who is being sought on suspicion of committing involuntary manslaughter and a hate crime.

“No community should tolerate acts of violence or hate crimes of any kind, regardless of a person’s race, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity,” said Assemblymember Eng. “My colleagues in the Legislature are sending a clear message to the federal government that all victims should receive equal protections under the law.”

AJR 29, which is co-authored by 58 Democratic and Republican lawmakers, does not require a signature by the governor.


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