Sen. Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III takes a moment from race-baiting and making crack cocaine "jokes" during the Sonia Sotomayor hearings to do his best to kill the pending Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act. HRC Backstory explains the three "last minute amendments" submitted by Alabama's anti-gay and proto-racist senator are "are unnecessary, unhelpful and should not be adopted."
The first Sessions Amendment would allow the death penalty to be applied in hate crimes cases under some circumstances. This Amendment is unnecessary and is a poison pill designed to kill the bill. The Amendment is being offered by and supported by Senators who oppose the Matthew Shepard Act. It’s ironic that the very Senators who have falsely argued that this bill would put clergy in jail because of their beliefs think that those same clergy should be subject to the death penalty.
The second Sessions Amendment would place an additional burden on the Justice Department to revise its long established guidelines for hate crimes cases. This Amendment is unnecessary. The Department already contains well-established, clear and precise guidelines to govern cases involving bias-motivated violence that work well.
Finally, the third Sessions Amendment would provide additional penalties for crimes involving servicemembers or their families. This Amendment is unnecessary. Existing statutes already provide special penalties on attacks against members of the Armed Services and veterans. In addition, the vague language of the Amendment is problematic. The Amendment provides for additional penalties for injuring the property of a serviceman or immediate family member. The scope of “family member” or what constitutes an “injury” to their property is unclear.
Very late Thursday, the Senate passed the Matthew Shepard Act on a 63-28 voice vote, described as
"the most significant extension of hate crimes law since Congress first acted in 1968 after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr." The bill was passed as an amendment to a defense authorization bill that includes continued funding for the F-22 fighter jet opposed by President Barack Obama. Majority Leader Harry Reid is hopeful a rewritten bill, sans the F-22 funding , will pass with the hate crimes amendment intact.