From the Office of Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi

Pelosi: ‘Hate Crimes Prevention Legislation is Right Thing to Do, Long Overdue’

September 28, 2004

Washington, D.C. -- House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi today introduced a motion to instruct conferees to the Defense Authorization bill to accept hate crimes prevention provisions contained in the Senate version of the bill. Below are her remarks on the House floor:

“Mr. Speaker, I rise to offer a motion to instruct conferees to the Defense Authorization bill to agree to the hate crimes prevention provisions contained in the Senate bill.

“I thank Mr. Skelton for his commitment to including the hate crimes prevention provisions in this bill.

“Hate crimes have no place in America. All Americans have a right to feel safe in their community, yet FBI statistics continue to demonstrate a high level of hate crimes in our country. Federal hate crimes prevention legislation is the right thing to do, and it is long overdue.

“Some opponents argue that there is no need for federal hate crimes prevention legislation because assault and murder are already crimes. However, when individuals are targeted for violence because of their race, sexual orientation, religion, national origin, gender, or disability, the assailant intends to send a message to all members of that community. That message is -- you are not welcome.

“When violence is visited upon people because of who they are, the color of their skin, how they worship, or who they love, we all suffer. When this happens to one of us, it happens to all of us.

“We all remember, very sadly the brutal murders of James Byrd in Texas, Matthew Shepard in Wyoming, Waqar Hasan in Texas, and Gwen Araujo in my own state of California.

“Current law limits federal jurisdiction to 'federally protected' activities such as voting, and does not permit federal jurisdiction over violent crimes motivated by bias against the victim's sexual orientation, gender or disability.

“Mr. Conyers has introduced H.R. 4204, the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Act, to expand federal jurisdiction to include hate crimes. Along with 175 of my colleagues, I am proud to co-sponsor his bill, and I commend Mr. Conyers for his untiring leadership and commitment to this and so many other issues.

“When state and local law enforcement do not have the capacity to prosecute hate crimes, this bill would permit federal prosecution regardless of whether a federally protected activity is involved.

“This legislation would increase the ability of local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies to solve and prevent a wide range of violent hate crimes. Numerous law enforcement organizations, including the International Association of Chiefs of Police, support the need for federal hate crimes legislation

“Four years ago, both Houses of Congress supported hate crime prevention provisions on a bipartisan basis as part of the Defense Authorization bill, only to see those provisions stripped by the conference committee. We cannot let that happen again.

“This June, the other body adopted an amendment to include language identical to H.R. 4204 in its version of the Defense Authorization bill on a strong bipartisan vote.

Today, we have the opportunity to put the House on record in favor of federal hate crimes prevention provisions. We must not allow the provisions to be stripped in conference again.

“We must continue to fight for justice, hope, and freedom by ensuring that hate crimes prevention provisions are enacted into law. That would be a true and fitting memorial to James Byrd, Matthew Shepard, Waqar Hasan, Gwen Araujo and so many others who have died because of ignorance and intolerance.

“I urge my colleagues to support this motion to instruct.”

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