So it took two days, but all in all, a very nice result. After fending off all of the poison-pill amendments, the House Judiciary Committee passed H.R. 1913, the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 earlier today.
The next hurdle will be a debate and vote in the full House of Representatives, which could happen as early as next week. From there, we’re on to the fun-filled U.S. Senate. Fingers crossed, we’ll be in the White House Rose Garden before the heat and humidity of a DC summer even set in. This stuff doesn’t happen in a vacuum though, so I hope all my fellow ACLUers will let their representatives and senators know that protecting civil rights and our 1st Amendment liberties are absolutely not a zero-sum game.
As the ACLU’s Legislative Director, Caroline Fredrickson said –
The ACLU strongly supports the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act as protecting both civil rights and free speech and association. We have found in our experience of fighting for stronger protections for civil rights and free speech and association rights that the two go hand in hand. Vigilant protection of free speech rights historically has opened the doors to effective advocacy for expanded civil rights protections.
Additionally, last week, I wrote about the tragic murder of Angie Zapata as showing, in a very real way, why it is so important to cover gender identity in the hate crimes legislation (it thankfully does). Just yesterday, the man who brutally murdered 18-year-old Angie was convicted of her death and sentenced to life in prison.
As this debate moves forward, I hope that Members of Congress keep people like Angie in their minds. I was delighted to hear Attorney General Eric Holder state just today how important his Justice Department considers hate crimes and express his support for expanding the federal government’s ability to address them.
Stay tuned as the debate now moves to the Gang of 435.