The Senate could take action at any time on the Matthew Shepard Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act (S. 1105), sponsored by Senators Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and Gordon Smith (R-OR) with 42 co-sponsors . This bi-partisan legislation, which passed in the House in May, will expand current hate crimes law to include crimes based on race, religion, national origin, disability, gender, gender identity and sexual orientation. It will also help local authorities investigate and prosecute bias-motivated crimes.
According to the latest FBI figures, in 2005 there were 7,163 hate crimes in the United States. These crimes - motivated by fear and hatred of others - are directed at communities as much as they are directed at the victim because of who they are. These divisive and destructive crimes contradict our Baptismal Covenant pledge to "respect the dignity of every human being."
In a recent letter to Senators in support of S. 1105, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori wrote:
"The Episcopal Church has long been an advocate of combating hate in our society. No person or group of people should be the target of violence simply because of race, gender, religion, disability, national origin, sexuality or perceived sexual orientation."
In the many years since the death of Matthew Shepard, Congress has passed similar bills but none have ever had as much chance to reach the President's desk as this one does right now. Help send the Matthew Shepard bill to the Presidents desk - contact your Senator today!