THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary For Immediate Release August 4, 1999
STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT
Two weeks ago I was glad to see the Senate pass S. 622, the important hate crimes legislation I supported with a bipartisan coalition in Congress. But there is much more work to be done. Today the House Judiciary Committee will hold hearings on hate crimes. That is welcome news, but it must lead to the entire House's consideration and passage of strong, effective hate crimes legislation, and ultimately to enactment of a hate crimes law.
Effective legislation must accomplish three objectives. First, it must remove serious jurisdictional limitations, which require proof that victims were attacked because they were engaging in particular activities. Second, it must expand federal coverage for violent hate crimes based on sexual orientation, gender or disability. There is no question that innocent people have been targeted and attacked and in some cases even killed solely because of their sexual orientation, gender or disability. Such hate crimes must be covered by any legislation passed by the Congress. Third, it must recognize that state and local authorities should continue to prosecute the great majority of hate crimes, and that federal jurisdiction should be exercised only when it is necessary to achieve justice in a particular case. Any bill that does not include these three elements falls far short of what America needs in our battle against hate.
No American should have to suffer the violence of a hate crime. Unfortunately many do, and therefore we must work together to ensure that all Americans receive greater protection. This should not be a partisan issue. It is a national concern requiring a national response, in the form of strong hate crimes legislation. I call on the House of Representatives to meet its responsibility in combating violence that is fueled by hate and to complete what the Senate has begun.
If we work together, we have it within our grasp to enact a bill that will take a very strong stand against those who perpetrate crimes based on prejudice and hate. We must not let this opportunity pass us by.