by Bill Clinton
Text of a letter from the President to the Speaker of the House of Representatives
July 12, 2000
Dear Mr. Speaker:
I write to urge you to bring the Hate Crimes Prevention Act (HCPA) to the floor for a vote before the August recess. Last month, the Senate, in a strong bipartisan showing, voted over-whelmingly to pass this legislation that would strengthen federal hate crimes law. As the Senate vote demonstrates, passing hate crimes legislation is not a partisan issue. It is a national concern requiring a national response. Now it is time for the House to do its part to ensure that strong hate crimes legislation becomes law this year.
Since this legislation was introduced in November 1997, our country has witnessed countless acts of bigotry and hatred. In June 1998, James Byrd, Jr., an African-American man, was brutally dragged to his death. In October of that year, Mathew Shepard, a gay college student, died after being beaten and tied to a fence. In July 1999, Benjamin Smith went on a racially motivated shooting spree in Illinois and Indiana. At the end of this hate-fueled rampage, Ricky Byrdsong, an African-American who was former basketball coach at Northwestern University, and Won-Joon Yoon, a Korean graduate student at Indiana University, were killed, and eight others were wounded. In August 1999, Joseph Ileto, a native of the Philippines and U.S. postal worker, died at the hands of a gunman in Los Angeles. This same gunman also injured five persons, including three children, at a Jewish community center. Finally, this year there were two killing rampages in Pennsylvania. In March, an African-American man shot and killed three white men. In April, another man murdered an African-American man, a Jewish woman, two Asian-American men, and an Indian man. We must take action now to stop these acts of violence.
This legislation is absolutely necessary because hate crimes are fundamentally different from other crimes. Victims are targeted simply because of who they are — whether it is race, color, religion, sexual orientation, disability, or gender. These acts of violence affect entire communities, not just the individual victims. This legislation would provide more tools to State and local law enforcement to investigate and prosecute hate crimes. It would also expand protection to include hate crimes based on sexual orientation, gender, or disability.
I ask the House of Representatives to follow the bipartisan example of the Senate by passing hate crimes legislation before the August recess. We must send a message that hate crimes will not be tolerated, and that one more hate crime is one too many.
WILLIAM J. CLINTON