Senator: Hate crimes bill sends message

June 19, 2000
On June 7, 1998, James Byrd Jr. was dragged to death along a dusty Texas road. On October 12, 1998, Matthew Shepard was beaten and left to die on a lonely Wyoming fence. They were murdered not for their property, but for who they were--one black, the other gay.
     Their brutal murders shocked the nation and spurred a national debate over what can be done to prevent further hate crimes and to ensure that perpetrators of such crimes are brought to justice.
     The Senate soon will consider the Hate Crimes prevention Act of 2000.  This act would authorize federal law enforcement officers to aid and assist state and local police in the pursuit and prosecution of hate crimes--even if state lines have not been crossed. 
     The act is controversial. Some believe that all crime is hateful, and that by providing federal resources for hate crimes we would be telling the victims of crimes committed for other motives that they are not as important. I believe, however, that hate crimes are different. While perpetrated upon an individual, the violence is directed at a community.