Thursday, August 6, 2009


The Matthew Shepard Act

The Matthew Shepard Act (officially, the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act or LLEHCPA), is a proposed bill in the United States Congress that would expand the 1969 United States federal hate-crime law to include crimes motivated by a victim's actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.

The bill would also:

  • remove the current prerequisite that the victim be engaging in a federally-protected activity, like voting or going to school;
  • give federal authorities greater ability to engage in hate crimes investigations that local authorities choose not to pursue;
  • provide $10 million in funding for 2008 and 2009 to help state and local agencies pay for investigating and prosecuting hate crimes;
  • require the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to track statistics on hate crimes against transgender people (statistics for the other groups are already tracked).[1]
At the federal level, then-President Bill Clinton renewed attempts to extend federal hate crime legislation to include gay and lesbian individuals, women, and people with disabilities. These efforts were rejected by the United States House of Representatives in 1999.[24] In 2000, both houses of Congress passed such legislation, but it was stripped out in conference committee.[25]

On March 20, 2007, the Matthew Shepard Act (H.R. 1592) was introduced as federal bipartisan legislation in the U.S. Congress, sponsored by Democrat John Conyers with 171 co-sponsors. Matthew's parents, Judy and Dennis, were present at the introduction ceremony. The bill passed the House of Representatives on May 3, 2007. Similar legislation passed in the Senate on September 27, 2007[26] (S. 1105), but then-President Bush indicated he might veto the legislation if it reached his desk.[27] He did veto the bill in 2007.

On December 10, 2007, congressional powers attached bipartisan hate crimes legislation to a Department of Defense Authorization bill, though failed to get it passed. Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House, said she "is still committed to getting the Matthew Shepard Act passed." Pelosi planned to get the bill passed early in 2008[28] though did not succeed in that plan. Following his election as 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama stated that he is committed to passing the Act.[29]

The U.S. House of Representatives debated expansion of hate crimes legislation on April 29, 2009. During the debate, Representative Virginia Foxx of North Carolina called the "hate crime" labeling of Matthew Shepard's murder a "hoax." Matthew Shepard's mother was said to be in the House gallery when the congresswoman made this comment.[30] Foxx later called her comments "a poor choice of words". [31] The House passed the act, designated H.R. 1913, by a vote of 249 to 175.[32] The bill was introduced in the Senate on April 28 by Ted Kennedy, Patrick Leahy, and a bipartisan coalition;[33] it had 43 cosponsors as of June 17, 2009, and is currently on the route to being voted upon.[citation needed] The Matthew Shepard Act was adopted as an amendment to S.1390 by a vote of 63-28 on July 15, 2009.[34]

[via Wikipedia]

Update on the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act

July 24, 2009

The U.S. Senate late Thursday gave its final approval to federal legislation that provides grants and law-enforcement assistance to local governments to prevent hate crimes based on victims’ sexual orientation or gender identity, and allows federal prosecutions where local authorities cannot or will not secure convictions.

The Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act was attached earlier this week to the annual military funding bill, which then cleared the chamber on an 87-7 vote at 10:30 p.m. Thursday. The bill now goes to a House-Senate conference committee to work out differences between the two versions of the legislation.

The Matthew Shepard Act is one of those differences, included only in the Senate version of the bill. It would allow the federal government to prosecute anti-gay hate crimes when local authorities cannot or will not, in the same way the Justice Department already can intervene in racist hate crimes. It also authorizes grants to local jurisdictions to back up their own efforts against bias crimes.While conferees will have to decide if it remains in the final compromise version, expected to face a vote in September after the upcoming congressional recess, the House is on record strongly supporting the Act in a separate, stand-alone vote back in April.

Congressional leaders have also stated their commitment to make sure it remains in the Pentagon spending bill that the president could receive as early as September.

Conference committee members will also decide the fate of other amendments to the Act, including requirements for new Justice Department rules on the use of the hate-crime prosecution authority; the addition of military personnel, their families and their property to the bill’s protected classes; and most controversially, the authority of federal prosecutors to seek the death penalty in some hate-crimes cases, a move opposed by many of the Matthew Shepard Act’s supporters.

Also, while the Senate removed $1.75 billion in additional F-22 fighter jet purchases which the Pentagon does not want and over which the president threatened a veto of the Defense bill, the House version still contains a smaller $389 million F-22 purchase, to which the White House still objects. That too will be a key negotiating point between the two sides.

[via Matthew Shepard Foundation]