Hate Crime Debate
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Current hate crimes law
covers attacks on the basis of race, religion, color or national origin.
A bill sponsored by Sens. Edward Kennedy, Arlen Specter, and Ron Wyden
would expand federal law to include attacks based on gender, disability
or sexual orientation. The measure—to be known upon passage as The Hate Crimes Prevention Act of
1998—would also provide additional resources to investigate and prosecute
bias-motivated activity. “Hate crimes are a form of terrorism,” Kennedy said at a hearing
before the Senate Judiciary Committee. “They have a psychological and emotional impact which
extends far beyond the victim. They threaten the entire community and undermine
the ideals from which the nation was founded.”
Critics say the bill is unnecessary since states prosecute hate crimes. They also say the bill would burden the federal courts and discriminate by creating special classes of people with more rights than those not in the protected groups. ``All violent crime, whatever the motivation, is wrong and all victims should receive equal protection under law,'' the conservative Family Research Council said in a statement distributed at the hearing.
Eight states have no hate crime laws. Twenty-one states have laws covering sexual orientation, 22 include gender in their anti-bias laws and 21 cover disability.
Supporters of the bill, however,
claim the legislation is not intended to undermine the role of the states in
investigating and prosecuting hate crimes. Instead, it will make resources
available to states in need.
In 1996, there were 8,759 hate crimes reported to the FBI: 5,396 incidents based on race, 940 based on ethnicity, 1,401 based on religion and 1,016 based on sexual orientation.
Records show that the government has been selective in its investigation of hate violence. During the past eight years, fewer than 40 federal hate crime incidents have been prosecuted nationwide.
The new legislation will eliminate a requirement that prosecutors prove that a bias-motivated crime occurred while the victim was participating in a federally protected activity such as voting, performing jury duty, using federal facilities or attending school. This will allow it to get involved more often.
Alan Keyes has said, The real
purpose behind the hate crime legislation movement, is to accord to the
government the right to punish attitudes.