Merkley: Passage of Hate Crimes Bill Marks Huge Stride Towards Equality and Justice for All

Washington, D.C. –
Today, the Senate overwhelmingly
passed the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act as part of the conference report for the Fiscal Year 2010 National Defense
Authorization Act.  Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley was a co-sponsor
of the hate crimes amendment.  The bill will now head to the President’s
desk for his signature.

“Hate crimes tear at our
collective spirit, create divisions in our communities and worst of all, victimize
people for being who they are as individuals,” said Merkley.  “I am proud
that Congress has finally passed a bill that will give state and local law
enforcement the necessary tools to prevent and prosecute these violent crimes
and help our country continue on a path towards equality under the law and
freedom from persecution.” 

The bill will enable the Treasury and the Justice Department to assist state
and local authorities in the investigation and prosecution of violent crimes
motivated by the victim’s race, color, religion, national origin, gender,
sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability. The bill increases the
federal government’s ability to monitor these hate crimes by expanding the hate
crimes statistics currently collected by the FBI and authorizes grants to help
prevent and deter hate crimes committed by juveniles.

“Passage of this bill is a testament to the hard work of Senator Edward Kennedy
who championed this legislation for many years,” added Merkley.  “While he
was not able to cast a vote today, his tireless work to advance the cause of
equal rights for all is the reason why we finally passed this bill.”