ACLU Explains Opposition to Sen. Version of Hate Crimes Bill
The American Civil Liberties Union is taking a stand against the Senate version of the federal hate crimes bill. The bill would add protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity to existing hate crime laws, and allow federal officials to step in to aid local prosecutors. But the version passed by the Senate last week has a major difference with the version passed by the House in June.
Chris Anders is ACLU Senior Legislative Counsel.
Anders: “The House bill has in it probably the most protective language for first amendment rights for speech and association that exist in the entire federal criminal code.”
Under the House version, prosecutors cannot enter into evidence the beliefs and past associations of a person suspected of a hate crime, unless they are directly related to the crime itself. The ACLU says these protections will prevent someone who went to the wrong website or belonged to a hate group in the past from being wrongly convicted of a hate crime.
The Human Rights Campaign disagrees, and says the Senate language is strong enough. HRC spokesman David Smith said in a statement that both versions “contain explicit language protecting speech and association.”
Congress will have to decide between the two, when a conference committee meets to hash out the differences between the House and Senate versions.