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Press ReleaseHate Crimes
ADL Calls for Congressional Action to Close Federal Hate Crime Gap

Washington, D.C. August 4, 1999…. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today called on Members of the House of Representatives to enact legislation to eliminate gaps in federal authority to investigate and prosecute bias-motivated crimes. The League submitted testimony at hearings today before the House Judiciary Committee on responses to bias-motivated crime, focused on the pending Hate Crimes Prevention Act (HCPA).

"Recognizing that bias crimes have a dramatic impact on local communities, almost every state has now enacted a hate crime statute – many based on an ADL model law," said Howard P. Berkowitz, ADL National Chairman, and Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director. "The Hate Crimes Prevention Act would authorize the Department of Justice to assist these local prosecutions, and, where appropriate, investigate and prosecute cases in which the bias violence occurs because of the victim’s sexual orientation, gender, or disability. Existing federal law does not provide authority for involvement in these cases at all."

Mr. Berkowitz and Mr. Foxman noted that "the tragic bias-motivated shootings in Illinois and Indiana over the July 4th weekend, which resulted in the deaths of an African American and an Asian and the wounding of Orthodox Jews, the arson attacks on three synagogues in Sacramento in June and the recent murder of a gay couple in northern California are only the most recent examples of the horrible impact of hate violence. The League leaders urged "all Americans to condemn violent acts motivated by bigotry and support giving law enforcement authorities the tools they need to address this national problem."

Under current federal law, the government must prove that the crime occurred because a person’s membership in a protected group, such as race or religion, and because he/she was engaging in a federally-protected activity (such as voting, going to school, or working). The HCPA would eliminate these overly-restrictive limitations and provide authority for federal investigations and prosecutions in cases in which the bias violence occurs because of the victim’s sexual orientation, gender, or disability.

Under the leadership of Sens. Edward Kennedy (D-MA), Arlen Specter (R-PA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Gordon Smith (R-OR), and Charles Schumer (D-NY), the Senate included the provisions of the HCPA within an appropriations measure last month. The House measure, H.R. 1082, is sponsored by Reps. John Conyers (D-MI), Connie Morella (R-MD), Barney Frank (D-MA), and Michael Forbes (D-NY). The HCPA is strongly supported by President Clinton, the Department of Justice, twenty-two state Attorneys General, and over 100 national law enforcement organizations, civil rights groups, religious denominations, and state and local government associations.

The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world's leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.

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