FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 17, 2009
12:52 PM

CONTACT: ACLU

Linda Paris, (202) 675-2312; media@dcaclu.org 

Senate Passes Hate Crimes Amendment Lacking Free Speech and Association Protections

ACLU Calls for Adoption of House Provision, Instead

WASHINGTON - July 17 - The Senate late Thursday passed an amendment as part of the Department of Defense Authorization bill that would give the federal government new authority to prosecute certain violent acts based on race, color, national origin, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and disability. However, the Senate version of the hate crimes bill lacks the strong protections for speech and association included in legislation passed by the House of Representatives in June. The American Civil Liberties Union believes that without the speech and association protections included in the House bill, the Senate hate crimes legislation could have a chilling effect on constitutionally protected speech and membership.

The following can be attributed to Christopher Anders, ACLU Senior Legislative Counsel:

"It has been our experience that the fight for better and stronger civil rights protections is more successful when free speech and association are protected along the way. Fierce protection of free speech rights has historically created the space for the improvement of civil rights protections. Unless amended to block evidence of speech and association not specifically related to a crime, the Senate hate crimes amendment could chill constitutionally protected speech and association. An otherwise unremarkable violent crime should not become a federal hate crime simply because the defendant visited the wrong website, belonged to a group espousing bigotry, or subscribed to a magazine promoting discriminatory views, however wrong and repugnant those beliefs may be. We urge Congress to instead adopt the House version of the hate crimes bill, which protects both civil rights and free speech and association."

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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.



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