2009-05-06 / Features

Crowley Hails House Passage Of Hate Crimes Prevention Act

BY JOHN TOSCANO

If enacted, the bill would close gaps in a current law that authorizes federal aid in cases of hate crimes committed because of a person's race, color, religion or national origin, Crowley said. If enacted, the bill would close gaps in a current law that authorizes federal aid in cases of hate crimes committed because of a person's race, color, religion or national origin, Crowley said. A federal hate crimes bill which extends protections to additional groups victimized by hate crimes and grants additional resources to local law enforcement agencies for prevention and prosecution was passed by the House last week.

Congressmember Joseph Crowley, a member of the Congressional Equality Caucus and Chief Deputy Whip, hailed the passage of the legislation, saying it would "prevent these heinous crimes and protect those who are the target of prejudice".

As a member of the Congressional Equality Caucus, Crowley (D- Queens/ The Bronx) has worked to educate his colleagues, especially freshman members, on the importance of the bill.

The bill passed by a wide margin of 249 to 175 now goes to the Senate for consideration.

If enacted, the bill would close gaps in a current law that authorizes federal aid in cases of hate crimes committed because of a person's race, color, religion or national origin, Crowley said.

The new legislation would extend protection to Americans targeted because of their gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability, Crowley explained.

"The bill applies to bias-motivated crimes of violence and does not impinge freedom of speech or religious expression in any way," Crowley pointed out.

The measure also expands resources for state and local law enforcement agencies to prevent and prosecute hate crimes by authorizing the U.S. Attorney General to make grants to those that have incurred extraordinary expenses associated with the investigation and prosecution of hate crimes.

In declaring that he was "proud to champion the Hate Crimes Prevention Act in honor of those affected by these heinous crimes across New York and the United States". Crowley stated: "As the son of a New York City police officer, I understand firsthand the importance of giving law enforcement the resources they need to prevent crime, and I fully support the funds made available by this legislation so local officers can work to prevent and prosecute these crimes to the fullest extent of the law."

Crowley said he had the privilege of meeting last week with Judy Shepard, mother of Matthew Shepard, the victim of a hate crime, and talking with her about the devastating loss of her son.

"No mother deserves such a loss, and the Hate Crimes Prevention Act will help to prevent these heinous crimes and protect those who are the target of prejudice," Crowley stated.

The "hate" bill also drew statements of support from Congressmember Carolyn Maloney (D- Queens/Manhattan) and New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.

Maloney stated: "As an original cosponsor of this legislation, I believe that [the bill] is critically important to ensuring that those who commit hate crimes are appropriately prosecuted and punished. No one should be targeted for violence simply for being who they are. Unfortunately the need for this legislation is clear."

Quinn (D- Manhattan) stated that the bill "sends a message that our nation will not tolerate those who would commit an act of violence against anyone based on who that person is, or who that person is perceived to be. And it finally broadens the federal definition of a hate crime to recognize such violence regardless of when or where it is carried out".

The Hate Crimes Prevention Act is supported by more than 300 organizations, including the International Association of Chiefs of Police, National Sheriffs' Association, Police Executive Research Forum, Police Foundation, National District Attorneys Association, NAACP, Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, Anti-Defamation League, Human Rights Campaign, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities, American Association of People with Disabilities, People for the American Way, Presbyterian Church (USA), United Methodist Church, United Church of Christ- Justice and Witness Ministries, American Jewish Committee, American Jewish Conference, U.S. Conference of Mayors, and American Association of University Women.

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