(H.R. 1913) On passage of the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which provided federal assistance to states, local jurisdictions, and Indian tribes to prosecute hate crimes, and added disability, age, sexual orientation, and military or law enforcement service as protected categories.
This was a vote on passage of H.R. 1913, which gave the U.S. Attorney General authority to provide assistance to state and local governments to investigate and prosecute violent crimes motivated by prejudice based on the victim’s actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, or military or law enforcement service.
Those Members supporting the bill argued that it would enhance American’s tradition of protecting liberty and granting acceptance. They also argued that the government needed to make clear that hate crimes committed because of sexual orientation, gender identity, gender, or disability should be categorized in the same way as hate crimes motivated by factors such as race or ethnicity. Those Members opposing the bill had been arguing that it would have a “chilling effect” on free expression that it would make thought a crime, and that bad ideas such as bias on account of sexual orientation would eventually be shown to be “bankrupt.”
Rep. Conyers (D-MI), who was leading the effort on behalf of H.R. 1913, noted that it would enable the Department of Justice to assist state and local law enforcement agencies “in investigating and prosecuting bias-based brutality and help defer the costs when they overwhelm State and local resources. And when necessary . . . it authorizes the (Justice) Department to step in and prosecute at the Federal level.”
He explained that the legislation expands existing federal hate crimes law by adding “group characteristics deservedly recognized for protection, the reason being due to their being well-known targets for bias-based violence . . . sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, and disability.” Conyers claimed: “(T)hese crimes of violence are directed not just at those who are directly attacked; they are targeting the entire group with the threat of violence.”
Rep. Sensenbrenner (R-WI), one of the leaders of the opposition to the legislation, acknowledged that the “motivation behind this bill is extremely well-intentioned.” He then argued that the bill was not the right way to approach the issue because “by setting up a separate hate crime . . . someone could be indicted for the violent crime and the hate crime simultaneously. At the first trial, the person is acquitted of the violent crime, and at the second trial the person is convicted of the hate crime, meaning what the defendant says during the commission of that crime. And that ends up criminalizing free speech . . . . “
Rep. Foxx (R-NC), who also opposed the bill, argued that it “will establish a new category of criminal activity, which is thought crimes. Today it is the politically correct thought crimes, those directed toward certain protected groups, but . . . it is but a small step to add new types of thought crimes to the list, and suddenly we find ourselves back on the Orwellian threshold of Nineteen Eighty-Four and staring down the specter of the thought police.”
The bill passed by a vote of 249-175. Two hundred and thirty-one Democrats and eighteen Republicans voted “aye”. One hundred and fifty-eight Republicans and seventeen Democrats voted “nay”. As a result, the House approved and sent to the Senate legislation providing federal assistance to states, local jurisdictions, and Indian tribes to prosecute hate crimes, and adding the disability, age, and sexual orientation as protected categories.