Washington, DC—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Judy Shepard made the following statements today at a media availability to announce the introduction of the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act as part of the Department of Defense Authorization Bill:
Statement From Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid:
“I am honored to stand here today with Judy Shepard.
“She has suffered a tragedy no parent should endure. And in doing so, she has opened our nation’s eyes to the brutality of hate crimes and the urgent need for action.
“This week we will bring to the floor the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act, so named in Judy’s son’s memory.
“This bill would authorize the federal government to prosecute a hate crime when a state is unwilling or unable to do so. It would make two main changes to current hate crimes law:
- First, this bill would add gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability as protected categories under our hate crimes laws.
- Current law authorizes the federal government to prosecute crimes committed because of the victim’s race, color, religion, or national origin.
- Second, this bill removes the requirement that a victim be engaged in a federally protected activity, such as serving on a jury or attending a public school, before the federal government can prosecute.
- In addition, the bill also authorizes funds for the Justice Department to award grants of up to $100,000 to state and local law enforcement agencies that have incurred extraordinary expenses in investigating and prosecuting a hate crime.
“It will give state and local governments the option of asking federal authorities for help in prosecuting such heinous acts.
“When Wyoming police pursued justice in Matthew’s murder, they needed resources they didn’t have.
“The police couldn’t call on federal law enforcement for help, and their expensive investigation devastated their small police department.
“Five officers were laid off as a direct result of how much that case cost. When this bill becomes law, that will never happen again.
“Judy Shepard has shown incredible strength, leadership and dedication to this effort.
“She – and the many others who have suffered – have taught us that we cannot be afraid to call these crimes what they are.
“For the last decade, Matthew Shepard’s name has been associated with hate crimes. When this bill passes, his name will be associated with justice.”
Statement From Judy Shepard:
“Thank you, Senator Reid. I greatly appreciate the opportunity to be here today and to thank the Senate for their perseverance and patience in trying to get this bill through.
“It’s been over 10 years since my son Matthew was murdered in Laramie, Wyoming, because he was gay. It’s been a long 10 years for us, and we’ve waited and waited to have a compassionate understanding (inaudible) Congress to get this through, not just for what happened to Matt and to help the communities and local law enforcement able to proceed and prosecute these cases better, for all the other victims that are suffering now, in the past, or probably in the future as well.
“And this bill will send a great message of respect to the nation that the government understands that hate crimes against the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered community are on the rise, they are heinous, they’re very violent. And even though they’re not in the news as much as they should be, every time they occur this bill will greatly enable the prosecution and show respect to the nation that they understand these issues exist.
“I can’t thank the senator enough for his leadership, and the Senate and the House as well for what they’ve done.
“Thank you all for being here today.”