U.S. hate crime laws
A timeline of legislative
activity in the federal Senate
Timeline of hate crimes bills in the federal
1999-MAR-16: Bill S. 622 was introduced to
the Senate under the sponsorship of Senator Ted Kennedy (D, MA), 39 other
Democrats and 5 Republicans. 1,2
The principal changes to the existing 1969 law would be:
Gender, disability and sexual orientation would become
additional protected classifications.
The six federally protected activities would be deleted. A
victim would be protected by the law at all times, not just when they were
doing specific activities, like being at work, voting, or attending a
The scope of the law would include:
Both men and women would be protected if the assault or
threat of assault was gender-based
Quadriplegics, paraplegics, and persons who are blind,
deaf etc. would be protected from attacks from individuals where the perpetrator
was motivated by
the victim's disability.
Heterosexuals, gays, lesbians, and bisexuals would all be
protected from crimes motivated by the perpetrator's hatred of sexual orientation.
The bill was read twice and referred to Committee on Judiciary. On
1999-MAR-24, it was referred to Subcommittee on Constitution, Federalism,
Property. No further no action was taken.
1999-JUL-21: Bill S. 1406 was introduced by Orrin
Hatch (R, UT). It would provide for:
Improved collection of hate crime data,
The detection of hate crime trends,
The preparation of a model statute for implementation by
the states, and
Making interstate travel to commit hate crime a crime.
The bill was referred to the Committee on Judiciary
on 1999-JUL-21. No further action was taken.
2000-MAY-12: Bill S. 2549 was introduced. It is a
major piece of legislation to fund the Department of Defense during 2001. On
JUN-19, Senator Levin introduced a hate crime amendment SA 3473 on behalf of
Senator Kennedy. It had 19 cosponsors. One day later, the amendment was
passed, without debate, by a vote of 57 to 42.
The appropriations bill itself was also approved. The bill
went before a joint House/Senate conference conference committee. The House of Representatives has passed their corresponding Defense Department
appropriations bill, but it did not include a hate crimes amendment. 3 The Senate amendment did not
survive the conference committee.
2004-JUN-15: S.Amdt 3183: The Senate again
passed an amendment to the current Defense bill, S. 2400 which will provide
funding to the Armed Forces during fiscal year 2005. The bill was called
the Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Act (LLEEA).
The existing federal hate-crime legislation allows prosecution of
crimes committed on the basis of race, color, religion and national origin.
The Senate bill would add three new classes: gender, sexual orientation and
disability. Eighteen Republicans joined with all of the 47 Democrats in the
Senate to vote in
favor of the bill. All of the negative votes came from Republicans. The
final vote was 65 to 33, almost a two to one ratio. Senator John Kerry (D-MA)
did not vote as he was campaigning for the presidency. One independent senator was absent. 4
The bill's main sponsors were Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA) and
Senator Gordon Smith (R-OR) This is the third time that the Senate has
passed the bill. On both previous occasions, the House either defeated a
similar measure or stripped the amendment during the conference committee.
Social and religious conservatives generally
oppose the bill. Many ignore the protections that the bill would give to
women, men, the disabled, and heterosexuals. They appear to be concerned
almost exclusively with protections given to persons of one sexual
orientation: homosexuals. A main concern is that a clergyperson, or other
person, who verbally
attacks gays, lesbians, or bisexuals might be charged under the act if any violent or
criminal act resulted from the speech. This appears to be a
misinterpretation of the bill, because it could only be applied to a person
who has actually committed a violent crime. Speeches attacking gays and lesbians are not a
criminal behavior; they protected speech under the First Amendment.
2004-JUN-15:S.Amdt 3183 (Cont'd):
Some comments on the Senate bill:
Senator Gordon Smith, a co-supporter of the bill, said that the
debate was far more civil and respectful than it has been for in
previous years. He said: "The atmosphere of the debate was
dramatically improved this year. In other debates, the arguments would
be laced with homophobic commentary and misrepresentations of what the
bill would do."
Olga Vives, vice-president in charge of action for the National
Organization for Women congratulated the Senate, but criticized the
bill because it does not also include protection for transgender
persons. She said: "We know that transgender persons are more often
the target of bias-motivated violent crime than other groups, yet the
senators refused to add clear protections for this vulnerable
She apparently meant that the per-capita rate of violent crime is very high for transsexuals and
transgender persons, rather than the absolute numbers were very high.
David Duke, leader of the European-American Unity and Rights
Organization whose web site is
"S625 will create a federal 'anti-hate' bureaucracy, empowering the
government to establish its definition of a 'hate crime' - one which gives
favored status to homosexuals and minority groups. S625 also enhances penalties
for 'hate crimes,' providing up to ten years prison for those who physically
harm a member of a protected groups. This bill imposes federal hate laws on
the states, meddles with states' enforcement of them, and punishes states
that lag behind the federal hate crime agenda." 6
Cathie Adams, president of Texas
Eagle Forum, strongly opposed the amendment. She said it is "against
traditional values." 7
Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council said that the bill: "...could
very easily be used against pastors who preach against same-sex 'marriage'.
It is now up to House conferees to ensure that... churches are allowed to
follow their beliefs and not be silenced." He does not explain how
churches, which are guaranteed freedom of speech under the First Amendment
of the U.S. Constitution could be charged with a crime. 8
In a similar vein, the Massachusetts Family
Institute writes: "If this 'hate crime' legislation were to
become law, it would be used against individuals and churches that speak out
on issues such as defending marriage and religious liberty." 9
The bill passed the Senate. On 2004-SEP-28, the House of
Representatives passed a "motion to instruct" by a vote of 213 to
186. The motion recommends that the hate-crime text be retained when a joint
House - Senate conference committee resolves differences between the House
version of the Defense bill (which does not include hate-crime wording) and
Senate version (which does include such wording). Majorities in
both the Senate and House have thus indicated their support for the inclusion of
the hate-crime provision. But the members of the committee are chosen by their
party leaders and are not necessarily selected to reflect the opinions of the House and
Senate. The hate-crime provision was deleted by the conference committee as in previous years.
According to Reuters:
"It's reprehensible that the GOP House leadership demanded the
removal of the hate crimes language," Sen. Edward Kennedy, a Massachusetts
Democrat, said in a statement. ...Backers of the hate crimes legislation, a
top priority for gay rights and disabled advocacy groups, have been trying
to enact it since at least 1998, when the gaps in existing law were
highlighted by two heinous crimes -- the dragging death of a black man named
James Byrd in Texas and the fatal beating of a young gay man named Matthew
Shepard in Wyoming. In addition to including protections for gays and the
disabled, the legislation would also modernize and streamline earlier hate
crime legislation enacted after the 1968 murder of Martin Luther King Jr.
The goal is to make it easier to prosecute such crimes. Kennedy said the
extra protections also were needed because of 'the shameful increase' in the
number of hate crimes against Arabs and Muslims since the Sept. 11, 2001,
attacks. Opponents of the legislation contend hate crimes were better dealt
with on a local instead of a federal level, and that the measure would
improperly create a special category of victims." 10
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
"Senate to consider hate-crimes measure," Baptist Press, at:
The text of S. 622 is available online at:
"U.S. Senate OKs hate-crimes bill," Baptist Press, at:
"Thought crimes legislation passes Senate," Family Research Council,
Washington Update, 2004-JUN-16.
Jan Erickson & Casey Shevin, "Senate Approves Federal Hate Crime
Legislation; Fails to Include All Affected Groups," National
Organization for Women, 2004-JUN-18, at:
Joe Crea, "Senate again approves hate crime bill...."
Washington Blade, 2004-JUN-18, at:
Kristine Gloria, "Hate crime law goes to House with Senate's OK.
Amendment would allow federal aid for law enforcment [sic]," The
Daily Texan, 2004-JUN-17.
Tony Perkins, "News from the Hill," Washington Update, Family Research
"Action alert: Protect free speech!," E-Alert, Massachusetts Family
"Hate Crimes Legislation Likely Dead for Year," Reuters, 2004-OCT-7,
Copyright © 1999 to 2009 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Latest update: 2009-JUN-28
Author: B.A. Robinson