Klobuchar, Murkowski Introduce Legislation to Promote Enforcement of the Federal Hate Crimes Law

U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) introduced legislation to combat the rise of hate crimes. According to the FBI, attacks motivated by bias or prejudice reached a 16-year high in 2018. The Justice for Victims of Hate Crimes Act ensures that federal prosecutors can effectively enforce the federal hate crimes law.

“As a former prosecutor, I’ve seen firsthand the trauma that hate crimes can inflict not only on victims, but also on entire communities. We must stand together to make combating hate-motivated violence a priority,” said Senator Klobuchar. “The Justice for Victims of Hate Crimes Act ensures that federal law enforcement have the authority needed to prosecute hate crimes. We must do all we can to put an end to attacks motivated by prejudice.”

“Prejudice against groups and individuals because of their sexual orientation, religion, race, or other characteristics has been part of our history. While we have made great progress in protecting our fellow Americans from acts of hatred and bias—discrimination, violence, and stereotyping still continue. It must be put to a stop,” said Senator Murkowski. “America is a melting pot and our differences should be celebrated, not treated with prejudice. I’m proud to join Senator Klobuchar in this effort to empower federal law enforcement by providing the legal certainty they need to bring the perpetrators of hate crimes to justice.”

Since the passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention Act in 2009, federal courts have split on the interpretation of the motive requirement in the law. In 2014, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals interpreted the law to require that hate crime prosecutors prove that bias against a protected characteristic was the sole motivation for the crime – a standard that is difficult to prove and could chill the enforcement of the federal hate crimes law. The Justice for Victims of Hate Crimes Act clarifies that prosecutors must prove that bias against a protected characteristic was a substantial motivating factor for the crime.

The bill is supported by ACCESS, Anti-Defamation League, Arab American Institute, B’nai B’rith International, Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, Human Rights Campaign, Interfaith Alliance, Jewish Council for Public Affairs, Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Matthew Shepard Foundation, Muslim Advocates, Muslim Public Affairs Council, NAACP, National Council of Jewish Women, National Disability Rights Network, OAC – Asian Pacific American Advocates, Sikh Coalition, UnidosUS, and Union for Reform Judaism.