New York, NY, October 28, 2009 … Calling it "a monumental achievement and a great day for America," the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today hailed passage of the "Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act" (HCPA), a comprehensive hate crime law that will provide for expanded federal involvement in investigating and prosecuting hate violence in America.
Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director, joined with members of Congress, civil rights organizations and other supporters of the hate crimes bill at a signing ceremony with President Barack Obama at the White House.
"The passage of this important, comprehensive and inclusive federal hate crimes law was long overdue," said Mr. Foxman, a civil rights leader and longtime proponent of expanded hate crimes laws.
"For 12 long years we have worked hard with coalition partners to build the case in Washington that this law was not just necessary, but vital to ensure that all victims of hate crimes would be covered, and that local and federal officials would have the tools they need to prosecute these horrific crimes to the fullest extent of the law. The passage of this bill is a monumental achievement, and a great day for America."
"Thanks to an extraordinarily broad coalition of supporters and the leadership of members of the House and Senate, we were finally able see this legislation through into law," added Glen S. Lewy, ADL National Chair.
"It is a lasting tribute to the memories of Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. They will not remain faceless victims of hate. Their deaths stirred an impetus for change, and inspired a determination to create federal-state partnerships that will ensure law enforcement authorities have the resources to investigate and prosecute such horrific hate crimes."
ADL has long spearheaded advocacy efforts for improved local, state and federal responses to hate violence. From the development of the ADL Model Hate Crime Law nearly 30 years ago, to the Hate Crime Statistics Act of 1990 signed by President George Bush, to President Bill Clinton's November 1997 White House Conference on Hate Crime where the HCPA was first introduced, the League has worked to ensure that local and federal law enforcement officials have important tools to combat violent, bias-motivated crime. Over time, ADL helped to build a broad coalition of religious, civil rights, education and law enforcement groups in support of the HCPA.
Forty-five states and the District of Columbia have enacted hate crime statutes based on or similar to the ADL model. In 1993, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously upheld a Wisconsin hate crimes statute based on the ADL model. According to the most recent data available from the FBI, there was almost one hate crime in America in every hour of every day in 2007, a total of more than 7,600 reported bias motivated crimes.