On Thursday the House of Representatives passed the Defense Authorization Act of 2010 (H.R. 2467), including the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act which extends the definition of violent hate crimes to include gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and disability.
From Rep. Barney Frank:
The Hate Crimes provision in the legislation passed today will allow the federal government to assist local and state law enforcement authorities, which prosecute the overwhelming majority of Hate Crimes cases. It permits the federal government to share resources and enforcement tools. It also authorizes the U.S. Attorney General to make grants to state and local law enforcement authorities which have incurred especially high expenses in connection with the investigation and prosecution of these crimes.In some ways this is good news. However I am always wary of looking at enforcement legislation as a solution. Will this mean, for example that hate crimes will be more vigorously investigated and prosecuted on the state and local level? Does this mean that there will be one actual standard for what constitutes a hate crime? Looking at Suffolk County, NY, where Marcelo Lucero was killed, it was just this week that the Federal Department of Justice announced that they would officially investigate the Suffolk County police department for “discriminatory policing” against Latinos, meaning ignoring a pattern and practice of hate crimes while creating their own pattern and practice of giving a green light to these acts. Will the new hate crimes law, which is expected to pass in the Senate and be signed by President Obama, be enough to force local law enforcement to act or will they be too busy looking at other enforcement programs like 287(g) which target immigrant communities and lead to racial profiling no even care? Wouldn’t it be more effective for the Federal and local government to create some consistency. After all, can you protect with one hand what you are trying to destroy with the other?