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Jewish groups back bias crimes bill

U.S. Jewish groups are backing a proposed bill that would expand prosecution of hate crimes. The Anti-Defamation League is leading the lobbying for the bill, and the National Council of Jewish Women and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs are considering making it one of the bills their activists bring to their “lobbying days” during national conferences this winter. Identical bills have passed in previous U.S. Congresses as amendments but were nullified by the Republican leadership through parliamentary maneuvers. This is the first such bill to stand alone, and is likely to pass now that Democrats control both houses of Congress. The bill, launched by Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, and Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), would expand prosecution of bias crimes beyond attacks on people carrying out federally protected activities such as voting. It also would expand current statutes, which address biases against race, religion, color or national origin, to include biases against “perceived sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or disability,” according to a “dear colleague” letter now circulating in the U.S. House of Representatives.