U.S. hate crime bills/laws - 2009
Bills H.R. 2647 & S. 909 became law.
Positive reactions to the law.
An earlier hate crime law (18 U.S.C. 245), was passed in 1969 in
response to a hate crime motivated by racial hatred -- the assassination of Martin
Luther King Jr. For over 40 years, it has discouraged certain violent
crimes motivated by hatred of the victim's race, color, religion and/or
The 2009 bill as passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama
Added gender, sexual orientation,
gender identity and disability as protected classes.
It would thus protect
female, male, intersexual, heterosexual,
transgender, transsexual, cis-gendered, disabled, and able-bodied
persons. That is, it would protect every person in the U.S. in four new
ways, in addition to the earlier four, making a total of eight-way protection.
Vastly increase the scope of the hate crime law to allow prosecution of violent hate crimes
at locations in addition to
post offices, public schools, voting booths, or other federal facilities. 1
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said: "This bill simply recognizes
that there is a difference between assaulting someone to steal his money, or
doing so because he is gay, or disabled, or Latino or Muslim."
One difference, to which Senator Reid refers, is that a hate crime victim is typically a stranger to the
perpetrator. Another is that the perpetrator's main goal is to attack an entire community of
people to which the victim belongs. It is essentially a terrorist act which
terrorizes many more people than the direct victim of the violent crime.
2009-SEP-23: Congress passed S. 909: hate crimes law:
After the House-Senate conference committee in September, H.R. 2647 & S. 909
and the resultant version was returned to the House and Senate for a final vote. This was
finalized on 2009-SEP-23 with a 68 to 29 vote in the Senate. As expected, the
Democrats voted overwhelmingly in favor and the Republicans voted overwhelmingly
against the bill. Only time will tell which party is on the side of history. The
bill had been passed
by the House on OCT-08 by a vote of 281 to 146. It then went to
President Obama for his signature. He had promised to sign the bill into law by
the end of the month.
The bill is titled: "The Mathew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. hate crimes
act." It is named after:
||Matthew Shepard, a gay university student in Wyoming who was the victim of
gay bashing and a crucifixion because of his sexual orientation, and
||James Byrd Jr., a black man in Texas who was dragged to death behind a
pickup trick. Both crimes occurred in 1998, the year in which the first
hate-crimes legislation was proposed.
2009-OCT-28: President Obama signs bill into law:
President Obama kept his promise; he signed the bill into law on 2009-OCT-28.
This is the first major federal civil rights
legislation to protect persons on the basis of their sexual orientation or
At the signing of the bill in the White House, President Obama condemned
violent crimes meant not to break only bones "but to break spirits." He said:
"Today, we have taken another step forward. This is the culmination of a
struggle that has lasted more than a decade. ... No one in America should ever
be afraid to walk down the street holding the hand of the person they love. At
root this is not just about our laws, but who we are as a people"
The president compared the hate crimes law with the landmark civil rights
legislation that promoted racial equality. The latter was signed by ex-president
Lyndon Johnson in 1968. Obama quoted Johnson's remark at the time:
"Through this law the bells of freedom ring out a little louder."
President Obama added:
"That is the promise of America, over the sound of hatred, chaos, over the
din of grief and anger we can still hear those ideals." 8
Positive reaction to the passage of the bill:
The Matthew Shepard Foundation wrote:|
"Matthew's parents Dennis and Judy Shepard have campaigned for the
legislation's passage for more than a decade since their son's murder in
Laramie, Wyoming, in 1998 in an anti-gay hate crime. The Matthew Shepard
Foundation applauds Congress and President Obama for their steady and
successful efforts throughout 2009 to bring the legislation to this point. We
eagerly anticipate its final enactment and wish to thank the countless
organizations and individuals who have worked tirelessly for its passage."
||29 organizations issued a joint statement:|
|History in the Making:|
It took much too long, more than a decade. And it came at too great a
price: the brutal killings of Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. are just two
among the thousands of crimes motivated by hate and bigotry.
But this week, the president put pen to paper and fulfilled a campaign
promise, the signing of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes
Prevention Act, extending the federal hate crimes statute to include sexual
orientation and gender identity along with race, religion, gender, national
origin and disability. Our deepest hope and strong belief is that this new law
will save lives. Now, lawmakers and the president have made an imperative
statement to the country and the world: Our nation will no longer tolerate
hate-motivated violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT)
We have worked long and hard for this and its passage is historic.
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Uniform Crime Reporting
Program, there are nearly 8,000 hate crime-related incidents annually, and
more than 1,200 of those incidents involve violence based on sexual
orientation or gender identity. And even more alarming, while the overall
occurrence of hate crimes is declining nationally, hate crimes against LGBT
people have been increasing. This year alone, we saw hate crimes trials in the
brutal killings of two transgender women, Angie Zapata and Lateisha Green.
As a result of this legislation, if local jurisdictions are unable or
unwilling to investigate or prosecute hate crimes based on sexual orientation
or gender identity, the Justice Department can now step in. And that's why the
LGBT community never stopped working for this historic day.
This legislation not only has practical value, but is a symbol of our
progress. It is the first time in the nation's history that Congress has
passed explicit protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender
identity. We could not have reached this moment without the powerful support
of our allies who stood with us every step of the way. We are deeply grateful
to civil rights, civic, faith and disability rights groups, as well as law
enforcement and district attorney organizations that worked side by side with
the LGBT advocates. We are equally thankful to Congress, President Obama and
members of his administration for passing and signing this bill into law.
While today we celebrate this marker of progress, we must recognize it as
only one of the building blocks to full equality and demand that it be just a
first step toward equal treatment under federal law in all areas of our lives.
And we must focus on the next step.
The passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes
Prevention Act provides us with an opportunity. We must use this moment to
educate and keep the momentum going so that we can continue to make progress
on the local, state and federal levels. Yes, legislation takes a long time -
often years of work. Yet, our community is on the cusp of passing much-needed
This week, we call upon lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people,
families and allies to take this opportunity of increased media and public
attention on hate crimes to educate co-workers, classmates, neighbors, family
members and friends about our lives, and about why we need not only their
friendship and love, but their vocal support for a more just and equal America
for LGBT people. If your members of Congress voted in support of hate crimes
legislation, call them and thank them. Then ask them to be there for us again
when the vote turns to workplace nondiscrimination, military service and
With your help and our collective pressure, equality is within reach.
When talking about the need for hate crimes legislation, House Speaker
Nancy Pelosi said: "The time for debate is over."
She was right.
Just as the time has finally come for stronger hate crime protections, it
is also time to pass an inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act, repeal
"Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and the so-called
Defense of Marriage Act, and ensure
that health care, economic policy and immigration reform incorporate the needs
of LGBT people.
The time for debate is over.
Jo Kenny, AFL-CIO Pride at Work
Terry Stone, Centerlink: The Community of LGBT Centers
Gabe Javier, Consortium of Higher Education LGBT Resource Professionals
Marianne Duddy-Burke, DignityUSA
Toni Broaddus, Equality Federation
Jennifer Chrisler, Family Equality Council
Evan Wolfson, Freedom to Marry
Lee Swislow, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders
Rebecca Allison, M.D., Gay & Lesbian Medical Association
Chuck Wolfe, Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund
Eliza Byard, Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network
Marjorie Hill, Gay Men's Health Crisis
Joe Solmonese, Human Rights Campaign
Rachel Tiven, Immigration Equality
Earl Fowlkes, International Federation of Black Prides
Kevin M. Cathcart, Lambda Legal
Leslie Calman, Mautner Project: The National Lesbian Health Organization
Sharon Lettman, National Black Justice Coalition
Kate Kendell, National Center for Lesbian Rights
Mara Keisling, National Center for Transgender Equality
Justin Nelson, National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce
Rea Carey, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
Paul Kawata, National Minority AIDS Council
Kyle Bailey, National Stonewall Democrats
Greg Varnum, National Youth Advocacy Coalition
Sharon Stapel, New York Anti-Violence Project
Jody Michael Huckaby, PFLAG National
Michael Adams, Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE)
Aubrey Sarvis, Servicemembers Legal Defense Network 9
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
Text etc. of the "Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act," GovTrack,
Charlie Butts, "Christians on high alert over hate crimes passage,"
OneNewsNow, 2009-OCT-24, at:
Adelle M. Banks, "Faith leaders divided over passage of hate crimes bill,"
The Pew Forum, 2009-OCT-23, at:
"Congress extends hate crime protections to homosexuals," Associated
Press, 2009-OCT-23, at:
Haris Tarin, "Senate finalizes hate crime legislation," MPAC News,
Jennifer Riley, "Senate Passes Hate Crimes Bill; Obama Expected to Sign,"
Christian Post, 2009-OCT-23, at:
- "US Senate Passes Expanded Hate Crimes Legislation," Equality Maryland
EQMD E-News, 2009-OCT-23.
"Obama signs expanded US hate crimes law," AFP, 2009-OCT-29, at:
Pam Spaulding, "Live: hate crimes bill signing -- reactions," Pam's House
Blend, 2009-OCT-29, at:
Copyright © 2009 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
First posted: 2009-AUG-23
Latest update: 2009-NOV-02
Author: B.A. Robinson