Press Release

Gillibrand Cosponsors Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009

May 1, 2009

– In an effort to combat hate crimes, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand this week
served as an original co-sponsor of the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes
Prevention Act of 2009
– legislation to expand federal law to give federal,
state, local and tribal governments the strength they need to investigate and
prosecute hate crimes based on race, color, national origin, religion, sexual
orientation, gender identity or disability.

The bill, named after a young man who was fatally beaten in 1998 because of his
sexual orientation, provides grants to improve the education and training of
local officials to identify, investigate, prosecute and prevent hate crimes. It
also expands the type of statistics currently collected by the FBI to improve
monitoring of hate crimes.

“It is time for Congress to take a strong stance against all hate crimes, which
target an individual based on who they are,” Senator Gillibrand. “This
bipartisan legislation will give law enforcement the tools they need to find,
prosecute and bring to justice anyone who commits a hate-motivated crime, and
provide critical protection to keep New York communities safe.”

Below is list of action the bill takes:

Hate Crimes Covered 
The bill eliminates the outdated “federally protected activities” requirement
and expands the federal government’s ability to prosecute crimes targeting
victims because of their sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or
disability.  Existing hate crimes law covers race, color, national origin,
or religion, but only where the victim is engaging in one of the following
federally protected activities: (1) attending or enrolling in a public school
or public college; (2) participating in a benefit, service, privilege, program,
facility or activity administered by a state or local government; (3) applying
for or working in private or state employment; (4) serving as a juror in a
state court; (5) using a facility of interstate commerce or a common carrier;
or (6) enjoying public accommodations or places of exhibition or entertainment.

Federal Assistance and Training
The bill authorizes the Attorney
General to provide technical, forensic, prosecutorial and other assistance to
state, local, and tribal law enforcement officials for hate crime
investigations and prosecutions.  Additionally, the Justice Department is
authorized to increase personnel to improve prevention and response to
allegations of hate crimes.  The bill also authorizes $5 million for
fiscal years 2010 and 2011 for Justice Department grants of up to $100,000 to
state, local, and tribal law enforcement officials who have incurred
extraordinary expenses associated with investigating and prosecuting hate
crimes.  Finally, the bill authorizes grants by the Office of Justice
Programs to state, local, and tribal programs to combat hate crimes committed
by juveniles, including programs to train local law enforcement officers in
identifying, investigating, prosecuting, and preventing hate crimes.

Certification Requirement
The bill authorizes the federal
government to step in when needed, but only after the Justice Department meets
the certification process outlined in the bill.  The Justice Department
must certify that the state in which the hate crime occurred either does not
have jurisdiction; has asked the federal government to assume jurisdiction; a
state prosecution has failed to vindicate the federal interest against
hate-motivated violence; or a federal prosecution is in the public interest and
necessary to secure substantial justice.  In other words, rather than take
over cases that would normally be pursued at the state or local level, the bill
will provide a federal backstop for state and local law enforcement to deal
with hate crimes that otherwise might not be effectively investigated and
prosecuted, or for which states request assistance.

Collection of Statistics
Currently, the FBI collects
statistics on hate crimes based on race, color, national origin, religion, and
sexual orientation.  This bill increases the federal government’s ability
to monitor hate crimes by including statistics on gender and gender
identity-based hate crimes, as well as hate crimes committed by juveniles.