On Thursday last week, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to pass the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act (H.R. 1592) in a vote of 237 to 180.

The act, if made law, would strengthen the ability of federal, state and local governments to investigate and prosecute hate crimes based on race, religion, color, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, disability and gender identity. The bill will also provide grants to help state and local governments meet the extraordinary expenses involved in hate crime cases.

“This is a historic day that moves all Americans closer to safety from the scourge of hate violence,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. “…Legislators sided with the 73 percent of the American people who support the expansion of hate crimes laws to include sexual orientation and gender identity.”

However, it appears that President Bush is set to veto the legislation. A statement from Bush’s office said that, “The Administration favours strong criminal penalties for violent crime, including crime based on personal characteristics, such as race, colour, religion, or national origin. However, the Administration believes that H.R. 1592 is unnecessary and constitutionally questionable.”

Each year, thousands of Americans are violently attacked just because they are black, female, Christian or gay. According to the FBI, 25 Americans each day are victims of hate crimes – that means approximately one hate crime is committed every hour. One in six hate crimes are said to be motivated by the victim’s sexual orientation.

The proposed legislation has the endorsement of 230 law enforcement, civil rights, civic and religious organisations and, activists say, is supported by 73 percent of the American public.

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