Hate Crimes Legislation Passes Congress (UPDATED)

Bruce DeBoskey, an Anti-Defamation Mountain States Regional Director, has reported and analyzed some good news, the fact that the US House and US Sentate have, after years of white conservatives blocking it, passed the Hate Crimes Prevention Act (introduced in Congress in 1999:

It has been 11 years since Matthew Shepard was beaten, tied to a lonely Wyoming fence, and left to die because his attackers hated gay men. That same year, James Byrd, Jr., was dragged to his death behind a pickup truck in Jasper, Texas, a victim of a racially motivated crime. One of Byrd’s attackers wore tattoos including the image of a black man hanging from a tree. Shepard and Byrd were not the only victims of those horrible crimes. In both cases, the murderers were not simply committing a crime against Shepard or Byrd; they were sending a chilling message to everyone who shared the characteristics of the victims. . . . The most recent FBI statistics show that there were 7,624 hate crimes in 2007. That’s almost one hate crime for every hour of every day. Most of those crimes were based on race, and many victims were targeted because of their religion, ethnicity or sexual orientation. Crimes against Latinos are on the rise, fueled in part by demonizing rhetoric about undocumented immigrants.

It took a long time, but now — finally — the United States Congress has sent a resounding message of support to victimized groups, a serious warning to those who would be perpetrators and a statement of safety and security to all who live in this country. Last week, Congress passed the “Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act,” and sent it to President Barack Obama, who has indicated that he will sign it into law.

The FBI stats are considered to be quite low, since many police agencies do not report or report zero crimes. The Southern Poverty Law Center has long joined with many law enforcement and civil rights officials to get this legislation passed, and they have estimated the number of such crimes at 50,000, much higher than the FBI.


President Obama just signed the legislation. After years of Republicans blocking it. Yet another sign of change that we can use in the areas of anti-oppression action and law enforcement.