Hate crimes against Hispanic and LGBTQ Americans are on the rise. Yet current federal hate crimes laws do not protect LGBTQ citizens; there are still five states with no hate crimes legislation on the books; and 23 states do not require collection of hate crimes statistics. This year, the US Congress is expected to vote on the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act (LLEHCPA), legislation that would add protections for victims of attacks based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and give the federal government the power to work with local authorities to ensure that hate crimes are properly investigated and prosecuted.
President Obama’s campaign platform included passing the LLEHCPA (also known as the Matthew Shepard Act), and now that’s he in office, many diverse groups are working to get this legislation through the House and Senate. Their letters, statements, and videos speak powerfully about fighting hate. Here are some links and excerpts:
Human Rights Campaign’s videos, “Voices Against Hate: Community and faith leaders speak out against hate crime violence.”
Rabbi David Saperstein of the Religious Action Center in his letter to the House of Representatives:
“As Jews, we cherish the biblical commandment found in Leviticus 19:17: “You shall not hate another in your heart.” We know all too well the dangers of unchecked persecution and of failing to recognize hate crimes for what they are: acts designed to target and terrorize an entire community. We also take to heart the commandment “You may not stand idly by when your neighbor’s blood is being shed” (Leviticus 19:16). Jewish tradition teaches the importance of tolerance and respect for others.”
Mexican American Legal Defense & Education Fund (MALDEF):
“In the past several years, hate crimes against Latinos have risen 40%. This is a national epidemic whose growth is spurred each day by hate speech, distortion of facts, and anti-immigrant sentiment expressed on cable shows, local radio shows and across the airwaves. National legislation, such as the “Local Law Enforcement Hate Crime Prevention Act,” must be a top priority for the next Congress and the new Administration [...]MALDEF calls on all Americans to unite against this wave of hatred and defeat the intolerance and violence.”
The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR) explains the need for the proposed legislation:
“Hate crimes remain a festering and horrifying problem in the Unites States. Although there are laws on the books to deter hate crimes and protect their victims, significant gaps remain unfilled [...] The Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act (LLEHCPA) would give the federal government jurisdiction over processing hate crimes in states where the current law is inadequate. The legislation would also facilitate federal investigations and prosecutions when local authorities are unwilling or unable to achieve a just result.
What role should the federal government play in fighting hate? Share your opinions in the comments below.