[JURIST] US House and Senate negotiators agreed Thursday to remove language that would broaden federal hate crimes legislation from a defense reauthorization bill currently being finalized in Congress. In September, the Senate approved an amendment [JURIST report] to the 2008 Defense Reauthorization Bill [HR 1585 materials] that would have expanded hate crimes laws to cover violent attacks against people based on their gender or sexuality and would have made it easier for federal law enforcement to become involved in hate crimes cases. Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA), author of the legislation, said Thursday that he was "disappointed that the House has decided not even to have a vote on the Conference Report on the Defense bill if it contains the hate crimes provision." In a statement, Kennedy also said:
The inclusion of the hate crimes provision in the Defense bill was appropriate. Our military stands for America's ideal and fights for America's ideals. The inclusion of the hate crimes provision in the Defense bill was appropriate. Our military stands for America's ideals and fights for America's ideals. At a time when our ideals are under attack by terrorists in other lands, it is more important than ever to demonstrate that we practice what we preach, and that we are doing all we can to root out the bigotry and prejudice in our own country that leads to similar violence here at home. Now more than ever, we need to send a strong message here at home and around the world that we will strengthen our laws against hate crimes.
The hate crimes bill was widely supported by Democrats and even some moderate Republicans, but because the provision was attached to a major defense bill, many anti-war Democrats said they would oppose it.
The exclusion of this provision from the defense bill comes as a blow to civil rights groups calling for increased legislation in reaction to a reported rise in hate crimes [JURIST report] this year. Reacting to the exclusion [press release], Leadership Conference on Civil Rights [advocacy website] President Wade Henderson said this bill was the "last clear chance to pass a hate crimes bill this term." AP has more.