Press

Introduction of Hate Crimes Prevention Act

Date: 
March 11, 1999

MEDIA CONTACT:
Roberta Sklar, Director of Communications
media@theTaskForce.org
646.358.1465

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force applauds the announcement by Congressional leaders of plans to introduce the Hate Crimes Prevention Act (HCPA). The Hate Crimes Prevention Act will provide new authority for federal officials to investigate and prosecute cases of bias violence, including sexual orientation bias.

"We hope that Congress will have the will and the conscience to do what many state lawmakers this year have failed to do: help addressing hate crimes by passing legislation that is of great importance, both symbolically and practically," said NGLTF executive director Kerry Lobel. "We ask our elected officials in Congress, if not now then when? The time for the Hate Crimes Prevention Act is now," added Lobel.

Thus far this year, a number of state legislatures, including Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana voted down hate crime bills. The New Mexico legislature passed a hate crimes measure, only to have New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson veto it.

The Hate Crimes Prevention Act would specifically add sexual orientation, gender, and disability to existing federal hate crimes law. Currently, the federal government is only allowed to involve itself in hate violence incidents based on racial, religious, and ethnic violence. Even then, involvement by the federal government is limited to very narrow parameters. The Hate Crimes Prevention Act would remove some of those barriers to federal intervention.

Introduction of HCPA comes not long after the vicious and highly publicized racist murder of James Bird, an African-American man, in Jasper, Texas and the brutal anti-gay killings of Matthew Shepard in Laramie, Wyoming and Billy Jack Gaither in Syclacauga, Alabama. Most states do not have hate crimes laws to punish individuals who commit hate violence based on sexual orientation.

Violent crime throughout the United States has been declining in recent years, yet, hate crimes against GLBT people continue to rise. In 1997, according to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Projects, at least 18 lives were lost as a result of anti-GLBT violence. In addition, the FBI reports there were 1,102 anti-gay hate crimes in 1997 or 13.7 percent of the 8,049 total reported hate crimes for that year.

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The mission of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is to build the political power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community from the ground up. We do this by training activists, organizing broad-based campaigns to defeat anti-LGBT referenda and advance pro-LGBT legislation, and by building the organizational capacity of our movement. Our Policy Institute, the movementís premier think tank, provides research and policy analysis to support the struggle for complete equality and to counter right-wing lies. As part of a broader social justice movement, we work to create a nation that respects the diversity of human expression and identity and creates opportunity for all. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., we also have offices in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis and Cambridge.