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The Honorable Benjamin L. Cardin
United States Senator
We are seeing a troubling trend in America and Congress must act. Violence against people based on who they are, based on hate, is on the rise and it isn't bound to any certain location or region of our country. We saw it earlier this month at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum when officer Stephen Johns lost his life to a man driven by anti-Semitism and racial hate. In February 2008, Lawrence King, a 15-year-old student, was murdered in his high school because he was gay. In July 2008, four teenagers brutally beat and killed a Mexican immigrant while yelling racial epithets. On election night 2008, two men went on an assault spree to find African Americans, because then-Senator Obama won the presidential election. Regrettably, hate is thriving in America.
The Mathew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act is necessary and appropriate legislation to combat a very real threat in America that is increasing against certain groups, including Latinos, Jews, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered individuals who saw a five-year high in victimization rates in 2007. According to recent FBI data, there were over 7600 reported hate crimes in 2007, that's nearly one every hour of every day. Over 150 of those incidents occurred in my home state of Maryland. Any hate crime is unacceptable but these numbers are truly disturbing.
I support The Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act because it fully protects First Amendment Rights but it expands the federal definitions to cover individuals and groups increasingly targeted. Current federal hate crime laws are based only on race, color, national origin and religion. We must include gender, disability, gender identity, and sexual orientation to make sure all Americans are equally protected against hate crimes. Importantly, it also allows for the prosecution of hate crimes wherever they take place. Those who commit hate crimes are not bound to certain jurisdictions and neither should the people who prosecute them.
Hate crimes are intended to intimidate and frighten our communities and they affect all of us, not just the victims. We cannot allow them to continue unchallenged."