Video of Sen. Murray's Remarks
(Washington, D.C.) - Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray spoke on the Senate floor explaining her support for federal hate crimes legislation.
The bill, S. 625, would provide additional tools to prosecute hate crimes, which are crimes motivated by a victim's race, color, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, national origin, disability, or gender. The bill would also require the FBI to to document and report hate crimes committed against women. A vote is expected tomorrow (6/11/02).
Senator Murray's floor remarks follow:
Mrs. MURRAY. Madam President, I join my colleagues today to speak in support of S. 625, the Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Act.
In every corner of our country, communities have been trying to respond to hate crimes. Despite great gains in equality and civil rights throughout the last century, too many Americans are subjected to discrimination, violence, and even death because of who they are. The Federal Bureau of Investigation has documented over 8,000 incidences of crime motivated by bias in the United States in 2000. Crimes motivated by the victim's race, color, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, national origin, disability, or gender. These crimes attack the values and rights of every American, yet today there is no federal law stopping these crimes.
Passing the bill before us will give us more tools to fight this special brand of crime. I am pleased to join with many of my colleagues as a co-sponsor of this important legislation. The legislation we are considering would expand the definition of a hate crime and improve prosecution of those who act out ``their hate'' with violence. If someone harms any person because of the victim's race, gender, ethnicity, color, religion, national origin, disability or sexual orientation, they will be punished.
It is important to note that the prosecutor would still have to convince a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that the criminal act was motivated by prejudice, and states would be involved in helping to determine whether a defendant would be charged with a Federal hate crime. The bill would also importantly require the FBI to document and report hate crimes committed against women.
Previously the FBI was only required to collect data from crimes committed because of a person's race, religion, sexual orientation, disability and ethnicity. This bill will allow us to know the ``who,'' ``what'' and ``why'' so we can work to end these crimes against women.
I know some of my colleagues have argued that the states are doing an adequate job of handling hate crimes on their own, and I commend the States for their efforts, but I believe the Federal government has an important role in this as well. At the Federal level, we already prosecute many crimes that are motivated by prejudice. We need to strengthen these Federal hate crimes laws and increase the role of the federal government in ending this violence.
It wasn't that many years ago that we stood up for equality and justice by forcing the States and private citizens to end segregation and discrimination. Now we must do the same for hate crimes against our citizens.
Madam President, we are a Nation of laws. We are a Nation that respects the individual and individual liberty. We are a Nation that rewards hard work. We are a Nation that tolerates and celebrates our diversity. These are some of our most cherished values. We cannot allow hate crimes to threaten our fellow citizens and undermine our democracy. I urge my colleagues to support this important piece of legislation.