OpenCongress Blog

Blog Feed Comments Feed More RSS Feeds

Trans-inclusive Hate Crimes Bill Moving Forward

April 20, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

The Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, a.k.a. the Mathew Shepard Act, has been introduced in every session of Congress since 1997. The bill would make several changes to federal hate crime laws, chief among them an expansion of the law to include violent acts motivated by the actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability of the victim.

There is a good chance it will finally pass this year. With an expanded Democratic majority in both chambers of Congress this session and a President who was an original co-sponsor of the bill last year, Democratic leaders are pushing full force to get the bill signed into law.

At a breakfast meeting with bloggers in March, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said that the trans-inclusive hate crimes bill would be a legislative priority. The bill was introduced in the current 11th session of Congress on April 2nd and later this week the House Judiciary Committee will mark it up and send it to the full House for a vote.

The main pushback against the bill comes from religious groups. The Traditional Values Coalition, for example, says the bill “will be used to lay the legal foundation and framework to investigate, prosecute and persecute pastors, business owners, Bible teachers, Sunday School teachers, youth leaders, Christian counselors, religious broadcasters and anyone else whose actions are based upon and reflect the truths found in the Bible.”

The ACLU on the other hand says the bill, if signed into law, would contain the strongest free speech protection in the entire federal criminal code. From an ACLU letter to members of Congress:

On its face, the hate crimes bill punishes only the conduct of intentionally selecting another person for violence because of that person’s race, color, national origin, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability. The prosecution must prove the conduct of intentional selection of the victim. Thus, the hate crimes bill, like the present principal criminal civil rights statute, 18 U.S.C. § 245 (“section 245”), punishes discrimination (an act), not bigotry (a belief).

Here is the key provision from the bill text:

‘(d) Rule of Evidence- In a prosecution for an offense under this section, evidence of expression or associations of the defendant may not be introduced as substantive evidence at trial, unless the evidence specifically relates to that offense. However, nothing in this section affects the rules of evidence governing impeachment of a witness.’

Here is Rep. Barney Frank’s (D-MA) statement in support of the bill and the Judiciary Committees’ vote this week.

Like this post? Stay in touch by following us on Twitter, joining us on Facebook, or by Subscribing with RSS.


  • Anonymous 04/21/2009 1:27pm

    I know this sounds kind of like a “the Emperor has new clothes” question, but: Aren’t ALL crimes a matter of hate when you get down to it? Thus, one more half thought out idea in action. Sigh.

  • Anonymous 04/22/2009 4:41am

    Barney Frank is an embarassment to the United States. Where did this guy come from? Who keeps electing him? What does that say about the future of our country?

  • Anonymous 04/22/2009 9:34am

    Violence is violence, regardless. We already have laws as Aggravated assault, lesser degrees of assault, Att. Murder, Rape and so on. Why in the world would we need to enact laws specific to groups of people? What group, pray tell, might I be in? I have no idea. This is nothing more than an attempt to further negate the protection of ALL people and add a longer sentence if convicted of assaulting a protected “group.” As Americans, we are all one group (humans) and no one should receive special treatment not afforded to all, equally. So, are we saying if a partner in a household is assaulted by the other partner, that wouldn’t constitute the same degree of criminal assault, regardless of the extent of injury incurred? This legislation is a waste of time and unnecessary. There is no need to create this extra burden on prosecution and law enforcement, nor the expenditure of dollars being proposed. Our tax dollars at work-WOW.

  • Anonymous 04/22/2009 10:35am

    If this bill passes, I hope this passes. Because every Caucasian that is attacked by other races should charge their attackers with hate crime charges. Hate crimes against caucasians is a growing crime.

  • Comm_reply
    donnyshaw 04/22/2009 1:01pm

    The bill would apply to people of any race who suffer violent attacks when there is evidence that the attack was motivated by the fact of their race, or their perceived race. Same applies to sexual orientation, religion, gender, etc..

  • Anonymous 04/22/2009 10:45am

    Hate Crimes:

  • RichardLRuggles 04/23/2009 9:17am

    This is open attack on Christianity. If a preacher preaches out of the Bible against Sodomy (homo-sexuality) he can and most likely will be charged with a hate crime.
    VOTE NO ON IT!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Comm_reply
    Anonymous 04/29/2009 5:40pm

    This is not a hate speech law. This is a hate crimes law. It only increases the penalty for another crime, it can’t be applied where no other crime is being committed. If a preacher gives an anti-black sermon, he isn’t prosecutable. If he gives and anti-black sermon while burning a cross on someone else’s lawn (arson, trespassing) he could be charged with a hate crime.

    Crimes committed because of someone’s race, sex, religion, or sexual orientation are a form of terrorism, and should be punished more harshly than random crimes or personal crimes.

  • Anonymous 04/24/2009 11:12am


    This is a bill about VIOLENCE.
    It is not about free speech (see the ACLU comments).
    Unless your preacher spews hatred/violence oriented sermons, he is quite safe.
    While you are thinking about that, consider all the other Old Testament directives/laws that y’all are ignoring. e.g. stoning for adultery, sacrifices of bulls for atonement, the 7th year forgiveness of debts, …just to name a few.

  • Anonymous 04/27/2009 7:01pm

    We punish crimes in this country, not motives. It shouldn’t matter what color/gender/religion/handedness/eye-color you are. If someone kills you, it is murder. To assign more significance to a crime based on race or gender is a form of discrimination.

  • Comm_reply
    Anonymous 04/29/2009 5:44pm

    That is why we make no distinction between first degree murder, second degree murder, voluntary manslaughter (all the intentional killing of another human being), nor do any states punish paid assassins more harshly than crimes of passion.

    Oh wait, we do punish people based on motives every day. I guess you have your work cut out for you correcting this horrible state of affairs. Maybe you will someday achieve your dream, and someone who kills a pedestrian while running a red light will face exactly the same punishment as a professional contract killer.

  • Anonymous 05/04/2009 4:29am

    If this law was in effect last year, would Obama’s Reverend Wright been charged/arrested for his hate crime speech against white Americans?

  • Anonymous 05/04/2009 4:29am

    If this law was in effect last year, would Obama’s Reverend Wright been charged/arrested for his hate crime speech against white Americans?

Due to the archiving of this blog, comment posting has been disabled.