United States Congressional aides are reporting that a House-Senate conference committee has dropped the hate-crimes legislation. The legislation, formally known as the Matthew Shepard Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, would have expanded federal law to include crimes committed against people because of their gender, sexual orientation or disability. The bill, co-sponsored by Senator Gordon Smith and Senator Edward Kennedy D-Mass, will not be progressed because it did not have sufficient support in the House, reports GayWired.com. Gay rights groups and supporters reacted strongly to the decision, with Wade Henderson, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, telling the Associated Press that the legislation is "the last clear chance this year for Congress to make a meaningful effort to stop hate crime violence." Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese added: "The decision is deeply disappointing, especially given the historic passage of hate crimes legislation through both Houses of Congress this year. "After more than ten years and several successful bipartisan votes, it is heartbreaking to fall short this close to the finish line. However, we are not giving up on efforts to find another legislative vehicle, in the second half of this Congress, to move the Matthew Shepard Act." Matthew Shepard's parents, Judy and Dennis, released a statement on Thursday saying: "We are truly dismayed to find that Congress now will put aside its leadership on passage of federal hate crimes legislation that includes sexual orientation and gender identity." "At this time of year that fills us all with hope for humankind, we are sad to find that a Congressional majority of each House who have already adopted the Matthew Shepard Act cannot yet come together," they added. "If not here, where? If not now, when?" The Shepards said they are "dedicated to redoubling our efforts next year to achieve our vision of a hate-free America that truly includes everyone."
Credit: GayNZ.com News Staff
First published: Sunday, 9th December 2007 - 9:43pm
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