WASHINGTON (Apr. 4)
A bill requiring the U.S. Justice Department to compile data on crimes motivated by hate was adopted by the House of Representatives on Wednesday by a vote of 402-18.
The Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith immediately hailed the adoption of the Hate Crimes Statistics Act and urged President Bush “to promptly sign this much-needed legislation.”
The House, which had passed a hate-crimes statistics bill last year, adopted the version approved by the Senate in February.
The decision not to iron out differences in the two bills in a Senate-House conference session was made by House sponsors of the legislation in order to avoid any further delays, according to Michael Lieberman, associate director of ADL’s Washington office.
The bill had been held up in the Senate since last summer because of Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.), who objected to the inclusion of homosexuals as hate-crime victims. The Senate eventually approved the bill by a vote of 92-4.
The Senate version, adopted by the House on Wednesday, uses the term “sexual orientation” instead of homosexuals, as in the original House bill. It also contains an amendment stating that nothing in the act can be construed as trying to “promote or encourage homosexuality.”
Bush is expected to sign the bill soon, since it has the support of the Justice Department. Once this happens, “the attorney general will begin a process through which officials will be in a better position to document and prosecute hate crimes, which appear to have risen dramatically in recent years,” said Burton Levinson, ADL’s national chairman.