Friday, October 9, 2009

Hate Crimes Update: Bill Passes Houses, Will Move to Senate

As expected, the House of Representatives passed the Department of Defense (DOD) Authorization Conference Report, which includes the Hate Crimes Prevention Provision, by a vote of 281-146. It’s now off to the Senate where it is expected to pass with the hate crimes provision included and soon to be signed into law!

Below is the news coverage of this story, courtesy of The Advocate.

The House voted 281 to 146 Thursday to pass a Defense Department funding bill that includes a measure extending hate crimes protections to people targeted on the basis of their gender, gender identity, sexual orientation or disability.

The conference report for the defense bill, which is a melding of the versions passed separately in the House and the Senate, will now move to a vote in the Senate as early as next week.

“The week of the 13th, we expect the Senate will take up the conference report and pass it as well, and then the bill gets pushed over the finish line and sent to the President’s desk for signature,” said Allison Herwitt, legislative director of the Human Rights Campaign.

At Thursday's press briefing, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs pledged that President Barack Obama would sign the legislation.

Herwitt said the legislation should remain intact exactly as it passed the House.

“A conference report cannot be amended so it's simply an up or down vote in the Senate,” she said. “We are extremely optimistic.

The conference report kept several amendments that were offered by Republicans but dropped the most problematic amendment, which would have included the death penalty as a possible sentence for perpetrating a hate crime.

The two provisions that remained added additional first amendment protections to the measure and charged the U.S. Attorney General with providing guidelines for determining whether a hate crime has been committed.

Herwitt highlighted the work of Sens. Patrick Leahy, Carl Levin, and Susan Collins as well as Reps. John Conyers, Tammy Baldwin, and Mark Kirk as instrumental in ensuring passage of the measure.

"And of course, the years of work that Senator Kennedy did -- what a tribute that it's going to become law this year," she added.

Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, who passed away this August, and Representative John Conyers of Michigan originally introduced hate crimes legislation in both chambers of Congress in 2001. The legislation was renamed the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act in honor of Matthew Shepard, a 21-year-old gay man who was brutally murdered in Laramie, Wyoming in 1998.

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