H.R. 1913 — Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009

H.R. 1913 would make certain “hate crimes” new federal offenses – including crimes motivated by “sexual orientation and gender identity” (not defined in the bill). The bill would also create two new federal grant programs to assist state and local governments in investigating and prosecuting hate crimes, and require expanded data collection and reporting for hate crimes, among other provisions.

Possible Concerns:

The bill in unconstitutional: H.R. 1913 misinterprets the Commerce Clause and the 13th (slavery), 14th (due process) and 15th (freedom to vote) Amendments to justify an unprecedented expansion of federal authority.

Massive superseding of state laws: Most States and the District of Columbia already have hate crimes statutes.

Threatens First Amendment rights: Religious leaders or members of religious groups may be prosecuted criminally based on their speech or other protected activity. Thus, if an individual (such as a pastor or rabbi) denounced the act of homosexuality as a sin to a group of people, and one of those people committed a violent crime against a homosexual, it is plausible that the pastor or rabbi could be charged with inciting violence or as an accessory to the crime.

Expands hate crimes: Crimes committed because of “prejudice based on the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability of the victim or is a violation of the state, local, or tribal hate crime laws” [emphasis added] would be covered by this legislation. The terms “sexual orientation,” “perceived,” and “disability” are not defined in the bill, and the bill vaguely defines “gender identity,” thus leaving the definitions open to wide interpretation by bureaucrats, attorneys, and judges.

Erodes equal justice under the law: Violent crimes deemed motivated by the specific type of hatred defined in this bill would merit additional federal penalties and more federal involvement and resources in investigating and prosecuting these crimes. Two identical violent crimes of murder – one a “random” act of violence and another “hate- motivated” act of violence – will be provided unequal treatment and unequal punishment.

PASSED 249-175

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Published in: on April 29, 2009 at 9:00 pm  Comments (3)