LULAC Hails Passage of Landmark Hate Crimes Legislation

Bill marks the first practical expansion of civil rights law since 1968.

October 23, 2009

Lizette Jenness Olmos, LULAC (202) 833-6130 ext. 16
Marie Watteau, NCLR, (202) 776-1812

Washington, DC – Today, the Senate gave final congressional approval 68-29 to the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which expands the definition of federal hate crimes and removes unnecessary obstacles to federal prosecution. President Obama is likely to sign the Act into law soon.

“We applaud Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) for his leadership and those Senators who supported this legislation for recognizing the fundamental right of all Americans to be protected from violence because of their race, sexual orientation, areas of worship, gender identity and disability status,” stated LULAC National President Rosa Rosales. “The passage of this bill sends a clear message that hate crimes will not be tolerated in America. We look forward to President Obama signing it into law.”

The Act authorizes the federal government to investigate and prosecute bias-motivated crimes based on the victim's actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or disability. Currently, the Department of Justice can only investigate hate crimes motivated by the victim's race, color, religion, and national origin.

The bill also gives the federal government jurisdiction over prosecuting hate crimes in states where the current law is inadequate or when local authorities are unwilling or do not have the resources to do so themselves. Local authorities would also receive additional resources to combat hate crimes.

This year LULAC’s National Assembly passed a policy platform urging Congress to pass laws that provide stronger sentencing and more aggressive prosecution for hate crimes. LULAC indicated the federal government’s role should be expanded in the prosecution of hate crimes by being allowed to assist state and local efforts to prosecute a broader scope of hate crimes.

The League of United Latin American Citizens, the oldest and largest Hispanic membership organization in the country, advances the economic conditions, educational attainment, political influence, health, housing and civil rights of Hispanic Americans through community-based programs operating at more than 700 LULAC councils nationwide.

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