Wyden, Merkley Join Congressional Members to Introduce “NO HATE” Act

Following a post-election surge in hate crimes, Blumenthal-Beyer legislation would improve reporting and expand assistance for victims

Washington, D.C. – Following a national surge in hate crimes, Oregon’s U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley joined Democratic legislators in the House and Senate to introduce legislation that would strengthen federal laws combatting hate speech, threats and attacks.

As incidents of hate crimes continue to rise, the National Opposition to Hate, Assault, and Threats to Equality (NO HATE) Act would improve reporting and expand assistance and resources for victims of hate crimes.

Recent anti-Semitic hate incidents across the Portland area were detailed in a Willamette Week story this week. Jewish Community Centers in Portland and across the country have experienced a significant uptick in bomb threats and other attempts at intimidation. 

“Americans of all faiths and ethnic backgrounds have time and again spoken out to warn that hateful rhetoric fuels and emboldens a culture of intimidation and violence,” Wyden said. “That truth proved out yet again in the recent election cycle, which was characterized by animosity toward racial, ethnic and religious groups. As Americans, we must stand up against harassment, intimidation and attacks on people in Oregon and across this country based on their race, religion, ethnicity, gender, gender identity and other personal characteristics.”

“The wave of hate crimes since the election is intolerable,” said Merkley. “This is not who we are as Americans. We are better than this. Now is the time to act to strengthen federal protections against hate crimes and combat the surge in these attacks.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center, which supports this legislation, reported 701 acts of hateful intimidation and harassment in just the first week after the election. The FBI has also reported a nearly 7 percent increase in the number of hate crimes in 2015 compared to 2014. This was driven by an alarming 67 percent increase in the number of anti-Muslim crimes.

The NO HATE Act would help combat the recent surge in hate crimes by:

Helping Victims Seek Justice in the Courts: This law will establish a federal private right of action for hate crimes, offering victims of hate crimes the option to fight for remedies in civil court, and ensuring that everyone—even in states without hate crime laws on the books—can have his or her day in court. Although Connecticut has a state private right of action, most states do not.

Improving Reporting of Hate Crimes: This law will improve reporting of hate crimes by supporting the implementation of and training for NIBRS, the latest crime reporting standard, in law enforcement agencies without it. This will allow law enforcement agencies to record and report detailed information about crimes, including hate crimes, to the FBI. Between 2009 and 2015, 17 percent of all law enforcement agencies failed to file a single hate crimes report, and in some states, a majority of law enforcement agencies failed to file a single hate crime report over the same period. Helping law enforcement agencies recognize and report detailed information on hate crimes and report that data to the FBI will help establish a clear picture of the threats that vulnerable communities are facing across the country.

Establishing Hate Crime Hotlines: This law will provide grants for states to establish and run hate crime hotlines, to record information about hate crimes and to redirect victims and witnesses to law enforcement and local support services as needed. This will make sure that hate crimes don’t go unreported and victims get the help that they need. New York and Maryland established hate crime hotlines in November.

Rehabilitating Perpetrators of Hate Crimes through Education and Community Service: This law will allow for judges to require individuals convicted under federal hate crime laws to undergo community service or education centered on the community targeted by the crime. 

In addition to Wyden and Merkley, the legislation was also introduced in the Senate by U.S. Senators U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Tim Kaine, D-Va., and Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis.

House cosponsors include U.S. Representatives Don Beyer, D-Va., David Cicilline, D-R.I., Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., Hank Johnson, D-Ga., Ron Kind, D-Wis., Ted Lieu, D-Calif., and Paul Tonko, D-N.Y.

In a November letter, Wyden and Merkley called on the Justice Department to continue investigating all instances of reported hate crimes in the United States and to prosecute perpetrators of such crimes. The senators have not received a response from the department.