The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release
Brad Luna | Phone: 202/216.1514 | Cell: 202/812.8140
Trevor Thomas | Phone: 202/216.1547 | Cell: 202/250.9758

U.S. Senate Holds Hearing on Hate Crimes Legislation

Human Rights Campaign submits testimony in support of legislation to combat hate violence


Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and
transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, today thanked the Senate
Judiciary Committee for holding a hearing on the Matthew Shepard Hate
Crimes Prevention Act (S. 909). The legislation, which was passed in
the U.S. House by a vote of 249-175 in April, would provide local
police and sheriff's departments with federal resources to combat hate
violence. The hearing included an appearance by Attorney General Eric
Holder, the first time an Attorney General has testified in favor of
this legislation, and written testimony from Human Rights Campaign
President Joe Solmonese. To read the testimony visit:

"We appreciate the Senate for holding
this hearing and urge action on hate crimes legislation before the
August recess," said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese.
"After more than a decade and nine successful votes in Congress, there
is no good reason for any delay on bringing this bill to the
President's desk. Too many families have been devastated by hate
violence. We must finally pass this bill and start the important steps
to erasing hate in our country."
The Matthew Shepard Act gives the
Justice Department the power to investigate and prosecute bias
motivated violence where the perpetrator has selected the victim
because of the person's actual or perceived race, color, religion,
national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or
disability. It provides the Justice Department with the ability to aid
state and local jurisdictions either by lending assistance or, where
local authorities are unwilling or unable, by taking the lead in
investigations and prosecutions of violent crime resulting in death or
serious bodily injury that were motivated by bias. It also makes
grants available to state and local communities to combat violent
crimes committed by juveniles, train law enforcement officers, or to
assist in state and local investigations and prosecutions of bias
motivated crimes.
Because there is no federal law
mandating states and municipalities to report hate crimes, they are
often underreported. However, the Federal Bureau of Investigation's
own statistics, based on voluntary reporting, show that since 1991 over
100,000 hate crime offenses have been reported to the FBI, with 7,624
reported in 2007, the FBI's most recent reporting period. Violent
crimes based on sexual orientation constituted 16.6 percent of all hate
crimes in 2007, with 1,265 reported for the year. In addition, while
not captured in the federal statistics, transgender Americans too often
live in fear of violence.
There have been nine successful votes
on the Matthew Shepard Act. It was previously introduced in the 110th
Congress by Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and offered as an amendment
to the Department of Defense Authorization (DoD) bill. After a
successful 60-39 vote to prevent a filibuster, the Matthew Shepard Act
was adopted by voice vote and added to the DoD bill. The hate crimes
provision was later not included in the final version of the DoD bill.
Working in coalition with the
Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, the Human Rights Campaign
continues to mobilize its members to pass this legislation. The
gives users opportunities to contact their member of Congress, watch
video testimonials on hate crimes and learn the truth about the
legislation. The site will continue as a clearinghouse for information
throughout the Senate action on the legislation.

The Human Rights Campaign represents a grassroots force of over 750,000 members and supporters nationwide. As the largest national lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization, HRC envisions an America where LGBT people are ensured of their basic equal rights, and can be open, honest and safe at home, at work and in the community.