HRC Lauds House of Representatives for Historic Vote
Elizabeth Birch: 'Hate Crime Law is within Our Grasp'
Compiled by GayToday
"This monumental vote represents enormous progress and has brought a comprehensive hate crime law within our grasp," said HRC Executive Director Elizabeth Birch. "We are so close to being able to protect hate crime victims and their families, but we will not rest until the president signs this bill."
A new poll released yesterday by the Garin-Hart-Yang-Research Group shows that hate crime legislation is widely supported by the public. According to the poll, nearly 66 percent of voters say they would be less likely to vote for a candidate who voted against legislation to "strengthen the prosecution of violent hate crimes motivated by prejudice against race, religion, gender or sexual orientation of the victim." A plurality of 44 percent of voters said they would be "much less likely to vote for a candidate who opposed hate crime legislation."
"Hate crime legislation is a winner with the public and members of Congress who supported this legislation will be rewarded at the polls, while those who did not will find they have a lot of explaining to do before Election Day," said HRC Political Director Winnie Stachelberg.
In anticipation of this vote, President Clinton spoke at a White House East Room ceremony today in support of the legislation. In addition, key supporters of hate crime legislation gathered yesterday for a press conference on Capitol Hill. Press conference participants included House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt, D-Mo.; Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass.; Rep. Connie Morrella, R-Md.; Judy Shepard, mother of hate crime victim Matthew; and Cmdr. David O'Malley, Laramie, Wyo. Police Department.
If passed he bill would extend current federal hate crime protection - which covers race, religion, color and national origin -- to gender, sexual orientation and disability. It would serve as a tool to help law enforcement by allowing federal assistance, when necessary, in the investigation and prosecutions of hate crimes. This legislation has broad support from notable law enforcement agencies and state and local leaders including 22 state attorneys general, the Police Foundation and the National Sheriff's Association.
A coalition of organizations, including the Human Rights Campaign, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, and the American Association of University Women are leading the lobbying effort to pass hate crime legislation.