Congress Passes Historic Hate Crimes Legislation

October 26, 2009

The Senate voted overwhelmingly on Thursday to expand federal hate crimes laws to include crimes motivated by a person’s actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or physical disability. The final vote was 68-29 on the bill, which was attached to a defense appropriations bill to ensure its swift passage. This clears the legislation to finally become law after over 10 years of fighting to protect the LGBT community from hateful discrimination after the House passed the measure earlier this month.

President Obama has eagerly awaited the final passage of this bill so that he can sign it into law. He recently stated at the Human Rights Campaign dinner that passage of the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act would happen before the end of the year, and now he can make good on that promise.

While it is great that Congress finally recognized the rights to equal protection under the law for people of all percieved genders and sexual orientations, it is alarming that 29 Senators voted against the bill. It is one thing to hold personal beliefs about these issues and to speak your mind on them, but quite another to willingly and knowingly attempt to deny individuals protection from hate crimes and violence.

Just as Justice is blind, so should the law be. It should not matter what the color of your skin is, what religion you follow (if any), how much money you make, or how you live your private life. In America, where aspire to the ideals of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness, it is reassuring that we have taken another step in the direction of guaranteeing those protections for all, but there is still a long road ahead.

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#1 rokeefe on Monday October 26, 2009 at 10:55am

I recall that some anti-voters claimed that there are already all-encompassing hate-crime laws on the books, and there need be only enforcement, not more legislation. Any comments?

#2 Matt Separa on Monday October 26, 2009 at 8:27pm

Well if the laws are currently on the books and are not being enforced, perhaps the laws needed clarifying. Either way, it doesn’t hurt for Congress to pass more legislation that specifically targets areas where previous laws may be unclear.

#3 Christopher (Guest) on Tuesday November 03, 2009 at 8:05pm

We don’t need more laws! As you say, laws already are written; if those are not being enforced, why will the results now be any different?

Keep government minimal, as ours is meant to be.

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