Saturday, May 05, 2007

White House Threatens to Veto Hate Crimes Bill


The House of Representatives passed the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act Thursday, just hours after the White House said aides would recommend President Bush veto the measure.

The House voted 237 to 180. A parallel bill is working its way through the Senate.

The Shepard Act, also called the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, would allow the Department of Justice to assist local authorities in investigating and prosecuting cases in which violence occurs against people based on their sexuality.

Federal hate crime legislation already covers people on the basis of race and religion.

Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) - the only openly gay man in the House - presided over the chamber as the final vote was taken.

"Today, we paid a sad but fitting tribute to victims of hate crimes like James Byrd, Matthew Shepherd and Michael Sandy," said Rep. Nadler (D-NY).

"No American should be threatened with violence because of who they are. Hate crimes attack not only the individual victim, but they send a violent message to an entire group of people. This hate crimes legislation takes critical steps to address violent bigotry and vicious acts of hatred. I urge my colleagues in the Senate to swiftly act to protect all Americans."

FBI statistics show that one in six hate crimes is motivated by the victim's sexual orientation.

"This is a historic day that moves all Americans closer to safety from the scourge of hate violence," said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese in a statement following the vote.

"Today, legislators sided with the 73 percent of the American people who support the expansion of hate crimes laws to include sexual orientation and gender identity."

But as the House was preparing to vote the White House issued a statement saying that if the measure passed both houses and goes to the President, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto it.

A statement from the Executive Office of the President said: "The Administration favors strong criminal penalties for violent crime, including crime based on personal characteristics, such as race, color, religion, or national origin."

"However, the Administration believes that H.R. 1592 is unnecessary and constitutionally questionable."

The White House statement said that state and local criminal laws already provide penalties for the crimes defined by the bill and "there has been no persuasive demonstration of any need to federalize such a potentially large range of violent crime enforcement."

The veto threat was immediately denounced by gay Democrats.

"By issuing a premature veto threat, President Bush fails to understand that he is not the sole decider regarding the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act," said Jo Wyrick, NSD Executive Director.

"Once again, the majority of American oppose the position of the President, and that is why we are urging the Senate Leadership to quickly move on this important legislation. We need Senate Democrats to step up before President Bush can step down"

1 comment:

ConnieJane said...