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Today’s email from the Human Rights Campaign:

 
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The hate crimes bill has been derailed.

But we’re not giving up.

We’ve made huge progress already, and we’ll work tirelessly to get this legislation through in 2008.

Dear *****,

As I write this, I am filled with both deep disappointment and gratitude. I am disappointed because our fight for a hate crimes bill has been derailed, but grateful for the historic advances that we were able to achieve this year.

As you all know, we have made momentous advancements this year by moving the federal hate crimes legislation the closest it has ever been to becoming law. For the first time ever, in one year we were able to pass the fully-inclusive legislation through both chambers of Congress – a truly historic feat.

If you recall, the Matthew Shepard Act first passed the House of Representatives back in May as a stand-alone piece of legislation. It then moved to the Senate, where it passed 60 to 39 in September as an amendment to the Department of Defense Authorization bill. Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and Senator Gordon Smith (R-OR) attached the Matthew Shepard Act to the Department of Defense Authorization bill because President Bush had announced that he would veto a free-standing hate crimes bill. By amending hate crimes to this larger bill, Senators Kennedy and Smith thought that we had a better chance of getting the president’s signature. After all, Bush would have to veto the entire piece of legislation – hate crimes AND programs for his war in Iraq – to reject hate crimes protections.

But in a frustrating move yesterday, during the very last legislative step – a conference committee working out the differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill – we received word that the Matthew Shepard Act would be dropped from the final version of the bill. The hate crimes veto threat issued by the White House and organized opposition by House Republican Leadership cost significant numbers of votes on the right. Iraq-related provisions, which many progressive Democrats opposed, cost votes on the left. Moderate Democrats, many of whom voted for the hate crimes bill in May, did not want to test the President’s veto threat and risk a delay in increased pay for military personnel. All of these factors resulted in insufficient votes to secure passage of the bill with the hate crimes provision.

HRC coordinated a major final push to protect this bill. 40,000 HRC activists responded to our call and wrote to Congress. We helped organize a coalition effort with 120 national and local organizations. We held 11th-hour meetings with lawmakers.

Despite the anger we all feel that we fell short so close to the finish line, we cannot lose sight of the fact that we did succeed in moving hate crimes legislation the closest it has ever been to hitting the President’s desk for signature. And rest assured, the Human Rights Campaign is not done fighting. We are not giving up on efforts to find another legislative vehicle, in the second half of this Congress, to move the Matthew Shepard Act. Yes, we made historic advancements, but we will not be satisfied until we get a President who will use his or her pen to enshrine into our federal law books that violence against the GLBT community will not be tolerated in this country.

We have been a leader in the fight for hate crimes legislation for over a decade, and we’re not about to let this setback deter us. We will not rest until these protections are law.

We also can’t lose track of the bigger picture for 2008. On top of working to advance this bill and the rest of our equality agenda, we are already mobilizing around the 2008 elections. We are investing major resources to:

  • Elect local pro-equality officials who will be tomorrow’s national leaders,
  • Expand our majority in Congress – so that we will have the votes we need to thwart roadblocks like this – and
  • Elect a leader in the White House who would NEVER veto a bill protecting Americans from hate crimes.

These are the moments when your support counts most. Together, we’ll find the right path to victory. We know it is there.

Warmly,
Joe Solmonese
Joe Solmonese
President

(***UPDATE 9/27/07: GREAT NEWS: Amendment added!!!***)

It is expected that the U.S. Senate will finally be voting on The Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act/Matthew Shepard Act (H.R. 1592 / S. 1105) TOMORROW! It is vital that you contact your Senators TODAY to remind them that you are one of their constituents, that you strongly support this very important hate crimes bill legislation to protect ALL people, and that you fully expect them to do the same despite the fact that George W. Bush has vowed to veto the bill. Please DO YOUR PART to make sure prejudice and bigotry is not allowed to flourish in our country by contacting your Senators and spreading the word to others.

From The Matthew Shepard Foundation:

The U.S. Senate is expected to vote on the Matthew Shepard Act as an amendment to the Department of Defense bill to ensure that all people regardless of their race, ethnicity, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability deserve to be free from violent crimes committed because of hatred and bias.

Please call your Senators NOW and ask for him/her to the vote for the passage of the Matthew Shepard Act.

URGENT: CONTACT YOUR SENATORS NOW!
CALL (202) 224-3121
& ask for your Senators office

Ask for their support of the Matthew Shepard Act and let them know that all Americans regardless of their race, ethnicity, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability deserve to be free from violent crimes committed because of hatred and bias.

From HRC Backstory:

BREAKING NEWS: Senate vote on hate crimes bill expected on Thursday

September 25, 2007 4:36PM
Chris Johnson

This afternoon, Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA), one of the lead sponsors of the Senate hate crimes bill, took to the Senate floor to urge the Senate to pass the hate crimes bill (S. 1105) and for President Bush to sign the legislation into law. Earlier today, Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) filed a cloture motion on the hate crimes bill, a procedural move to overcome Senator McCain’s objection to bringing the amendment to the floor. Our side must achieve 60 votes on the cloture motion to win; that vote is scheduled for Thursday. The Senate should then move towards passages of the hate crimes bill as an amendment to the Department of Defense authorization bill.

Senator Kennedy’s prepared statement on the Senate floor can be read here.

Senator Kennedy Speaks On Hate Crimes

From the Human Rights Campaign web site:

Hate Crimes Affect More than Just the Individual Attacked
All violent crimes are reprehensible. But the damage done by hate crimes cannot be measured solely in terms of physical injury or dollars and cents. Hate crimes rend the fabric of our society and fragment communities because they target a whole group and not just the individual victim. Hate crimes are committed to cause fear to a whole community. A violent hate crime is intended to “send a message” that an individual and “their kind” will not be tolerated, many times leaving the victim and others in their group feeling isolated, vulnerable and unprotected.

The Truth About Hate Crimes Laws

Related articles/information:

  • Complete text of Senator Kennedy’s statement on the floor of the US Senate regarding The Matthew Shepard Act
    • Hate crimes are a form of domestic terrorism. They send the poisonous message that some Americans deserve to be victimized solely because of who they are. Like other acts of terrorism, hate crimes have an impact far greater than the impact on the individual victims. They are crimes against entire communities, against the whole nation, and against the fundamental ideals on which America was founded. They are a violation of all our country stands for.
  • Fabricated fears about hate crime legislation (Cornel West and Sylvia Rhue Op-Ed piece from The Boston Globe)
    • The truth is that the Matthew Shepard Act protects all First Amendment rights. And, although that is a given, this bill goes out of its way to protect the free speech of ministers. Those pastors who wish to continue condemning and dehumanizing the gay community will be free to do so.
  • Hate Crimes and Justice in the Black Community (Melissa Harris-Lacewell on the Huffington Post)
    • The proposed federal statute does not punish nor prohibit free expression of one’s religious beliefs. The hate crimes bill includes language protecting individuals from race-based and religion-based crimes as well. The Act protects first Amendment rights for everyone while ensuring that the authorities fully investigate all violent crimes intended to degrade and oppress their victims. The bill protects our children, because black youth are disproportionately targeted and victimized in anti-gay hate crimes.
  • Transcript: Judy Shepard Urges Passage of Hate Crimes Law (NOW on pbs.org)
    • HINOJOSA: So right now the House has already passed the bill. And the Senate is—is set to vote on it shortly. But President Bush is expected to veto the bill. The White House has said that state and local criminal laws already cover the new crimes that are defined under the bill. So—the—basically—the President is saying this kind of legislation just isn’t necessary. So what do you say to that?
    • SHEPARD: It’s very disheartening when the leader of our nation goes on national T.V. and says that gay people aren’t—aren’t deserving of every—every equality that everyone else is. I’m very disappointed that they don’t see the difference, if nothing else than the message that it sends, that we need to protect—all of our citizens. Everyone is a race. Everyone is a sexual orientation. It just gives permission for people to continue to harass sexual orientation until we mark them as protected.
  • Senator Kennedy press release on the Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2007
    • Crimes motivated by hate because of the victim’s race, religion, ethnic background, sexual orientation, disability, or gender are not confined to the geographical boundaries of our great nation. The current conflicts in the Middle East and Northern Ireland, the ethnic cleansing campaigns in Bosnia and Rwanda, or the Holocaust itself demonstrate that violence motivated by hate is a world-wide danger, and we have a special responsibility to combat it here at home.
  • Support for the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2007

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