Pledges to hold vote on Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act before August recess
Washington, DC— Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and civil rights leaders held a press conference this afternoon to discuss the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act. Michael Lieberman, Washington Counsel of the Anti-Defamation League; Joe Solmonese, President of the Human Rights Campaign; Wade Henderson, President and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights; and Janet Murguia, President and CEO of the National Council of La Raza joined Senator Reid, as did representatives from the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, the Interfaith Alliance, the National District Attorneys Association and the National Women’s Law Center.
“Hate crimes embody a unique brand of evil,” Reid said. “A violent act may physically hurt just a single victim and cause grief for loved ones. But hate crimes do more. They distress entire communities, entire groups of people, and our entire country. Senator Kennedy has so courageously fought for this legislation for many years. He has correctly called hate crimes a form of domestic terrorism, and it is our obligation to protect Americans from such terror. That is why before we leave here in August, I am committed to holding a vote on this bill.”
Said Lieberman: “Last week’s shooting at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum reminds us, as the Museum itself does every day, where the spread of hatred can lead. This evil attack at the very place that was created to remember and teach about evil in the world, is an immediate reminder that words of hate matter, that we can never afford to ignore racism and bigotry. Words of hate can become acts of hate.”
“One only needs to look at the front page of the newspaper in recent weeks to see that hate-motivated violence continues to threaten the lives of innocent Americans,” Solmonese said. “These events are sad reminders of the need to recommit ourselves to stopping extremism and hate in whatever form they take. As LGBT Americans, we face the ongoing threat of hate-motivated violence, and we know these individual acts are often designed to terrorize an entire community. This recent reminder of hate violence only further underscores the need for passage of the long-overdue Matthew Shepard Act that would give law enforcement more resources to combat these heinous crimes.”
Said Henderson: “In an increasingly diverse America, there is no civil right more fundamental to American democracy than protecting individuals from acts of violence because of their race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, or disability.”
“Given the often ugly debate surrounding the issue of immigration, it is not surprising that hate crimes targeting Latinos have risen 40% in the last few years,” Murguia said. “Hate affects all of us and it is up to all of us to stop it. We commend Sen. Reid for his leadership on this most important issue.”