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June 25th, 2009
02:08 PM ET

Hate Crimes Bill: What do you think?

Today U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder urged Senators to pass The Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Bill.
he federal law would expand legislation to include federal protection against hate crimes to cover disability, gender, and sexual orientation.

The law would also allow the Justice Department to assist state and local authorities in the prosecution of hate crimes.

What do you think? Should this hate crimes bill be passed? Let us know here or tweet us @KyraCNN

At 2:30pm today Kyra Phillips with interview the parents of Matthew Shepard in the CNN NewsRoom.

Find out more about his parents' work through the Matthew Shepard Foundation on their website.

Filed under: Kyra Phillips
soundoff (57 Responses)
  1. jeff clark

    of course it should be passed (years ago!!!) after 16 years working in a Max. Security Prison (as a Correctional Officer and Correctional Counselor) "Hate Crimes" are only a seg-way crime to assaults, sexual assaults, gun crimes, property crimes, kidnappings, and murders...

    June 25, 2009 at 2:15 pm |
  2. peace-in-pa

    Seems long overdue – hate crimes are not only a matter of race.

    June 25, 2009 at 2:22 pm |
  3. Jeff

    NO... the hate crimes bill should not be passed and the bill it's self has a hidden agenda behind it as well as means to control or manipulate. The bill is a farce!

    June 25, 2009 at 2:33 pm |
  4. Martin in Shoreline, WA

    Absolutely not. Liberals need to stop with the "thought crime" legislation. Very Orwellian. The problem with this kind of ridiculous and dangerous legislation, is that it is not evenly applied. Blacks murder whites at a rate three times higher than whites killing blacks. When you take into account that blacks are only 12% of the population, that makes a white person NINE times more likely to be murdered by a black person. And this is clearly motivated by race. Blacks kill very few people of other races that are not white. Yet white people are the only ones charged with hate crimes.

    Killing someone of a different race does not make the killing more heinous. A woman's life is not more valuable than a mans. Murdering a homosexual is not worse than murdering a heterosexual. Murdering a disabled person, is not worse than murdering an able bodied person: They are all equally dead.

    Why do you report on the activities of the KKK, but not the Black Panthers? Racism and sexism is institutionalized in America. And virtually all of those laws are aimed at white males. It is time to stop segregating society with laws like these. And how about we have Barack Obama apologize for slavery? His mother's ancestors likely owned slaves; and his father's ancestors likely sold them into slavery. That makes Barack Obama at least TWICE as guilty of slavery as I am. My ancestors are from the north, and we never owned slaves.

    June 25, 2009 at 2:35 pm |
  5. Michael Kovich

    The hate crimes bill most certainly needs to be passed. We must protect and defend all people and have them treated equally. Those bad eggs that feel the need to harass and attack people who are different need to be taught that it is not appropriate and definitely not acceptable. All human beings are created equal and the law needs to recognize and embrace that. Pass the hate crime bill!

    June 25, 2009 at 2:50 pm |
  6. Mark

    As a gay man I know all too well the uncomfortable feeling I have to deal with when others become aware of my sexuality (something that I can not change). This bill needs to be passed for the protection of people that are persecuted for the person that they are.

    June 25, 2009 at 2:51 pm |
  7. Emily

    I sincerely hope this legislation passes. For those critics who say "this is not needed, and elevates some above others," shame on you! The purpose of this bill is to deter those from committing crimes against groups that are frequently targeted! Deterrence is an important consideration in writing criminal laws. ALL violent crimes should be abhorred, but if harsher punishments are given to those who target specific groups, perhaps these groups will be given the same protection granted to the rest of us.

    June 25, 2009 at 2:51 pm |
  8. Patrick

    This is long overdue. We "protect" people of many classes and pointedly ignore those who are gay. It's unfortunate that there's so much ignorance in this country but hopefully this will move us forward socially. We can't really judge Iran when some of our own leaders use religious based bigotry to justify their own small-minded ideals.

    June 25, 2009 at 2:52 pm |
  9. John Tramel

    Absolutely! There was a horrible attack on two gay men by a group of men outside a club here in Johnson City, TN a few months ago. Witnesses had descriptions of the attackers, AND a license plate number of the car the attackers fled in... the official response on the JCPD is that the "investigation in still pending". DON'T TELL ME WE DON'T NEED THESE PROTECTIONS!

    June 25, 2009 at 2:52 pm |
  10. Molly (Los Angeles)

    Sadly, the U.S. still needs the protections that the Matthew Shepard Hate Crime Bill will cover. Why? We need look no further than the congressional members who think we don't!

    June 25, 2009 at 2:52 pm |
  11. Michelle

    Yes, Hate crime bill needs to pass. Any rights that will proect the minority is a great thing. That is the proplem with the world today even America. More laws to proect the Gays, Lesbians, Transgendered & the Disababled.

    June 25, 2009 at 2:53 pm |
  12. almond

    this hate crime bill is over due and very much needed to protect the people who are just trying to be them selves.

    June 25, 2009 at 2:53 pm |
  13. jeanne obrien

    Of course! I can't believe it hasn't been passed yet, and there are people in congress who are actually against it! I had hoped we had evolved as a nation past this point.

    June 25, 2009 at 2:53 pm |
  14. Dave Williams

    There is the chance this could blur the lines of free speech and expression because who defines "hate"? Crime is crime regardless of the motivation. This designation is needless.

    June 25, 2009 at 2:53 pm |
  15. misty

    I can't even believe this is a question! The question should really be "why hasn't this bill been passed already?" It's been over 10 years since the death of Matthew Shepherd and we still can't see the effect of hate crimes in America? It's just sad! It's not a case of special rights for special people. It's a case of equal rights for all people!

    June 25, 2009 at 2:53 pm |
  16. Sarah

    I Don't think this bill should be passed. Certain people are given rights that others do not have, doesn't that defy the equality rights?
    I understand that this hate bill has a purpose, but i strongly disagree with it, I do not think it should be passed

    June 25, 2009 at 2:54 pm |
  17. Leah

    Of Course this anti-handicapped, anti-race, etc. bill should be passed. As an epileptic my whole life, I have always felt everyone who doesn't get seizures, especially politicians who pass laws should have just put us to sleep before ignoring assistance to know, nixonish (like aborting mixed color babies).

    June 25, 2009 at 2:54 pm |
  18. GreenPatriot

    NO. Murder is murder no matter the race, colour, religion, etc! No need to make some murders more "special" than others, once you decide to commit that act you are a murderer first and foremost not a racist, gay-basher, fundamentalist etc. You are a murderer FIRST. This law and all hate crime laws are a violation of the equal protection clause and unconstitutional.

    June 25, 2009 at 2:54 pm |
  19. Scott Slater

    No... So far as I've herd, the hate crimes bill only applies to actions and not words. But I am not so naive as to believe that there wont be somewhere that someone starts to accuse Churches, pastors, and myself from believing, and preaching what we believe, to be a hate crime. It's obvious that our country is fast approaching what your freedom of speech and religion are, where they intersect, and which one trumps the other when they collide.

    June 25, 2009 at 2:54 pm |
  20. Aaron, Fontana, Ca

    Absolutely not. It seems like the right thing to do on the surface, but in reality it is just the beginning of a new system of thought crime and thought police. That is a Pandora's Box we as a people should know better than to open. Crime is crime, motive helps prove guilt but should not determine a person's punishment.

    June 25, 2009 at 2:54 pm |
  21. isiah j.

    The nerve of these people why should there be a hate crimes bill, crime is crime ,we have laws on the books inforce them.

    June 25, 2009 at 2:55 pm |
  22. john holbrook

    No group should have special rights. Current laws already cover the entire crime spectrum. This would just create more bureaucracy and more business for lawyers.

    June 25, 2009 at 2:55 pm |
  23. Bob

    There are already laws against murder and assault. Saying the federeal government will pay to prosecute, or adding to a sentence because of the victim was gay or in any other group, and not straight or white, makes no sense.

    June 25, 2009 at 2:55 pm |
  24. Larry

    Absolutely it should be passed.

    June 25, 2009 at 2:56 pm |
  25. VanNolan Smith

    Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes, it is time for all hate crimes to be on the books, and time for all Lawmakers with the mentallity that's stuck in the twentieth centry to be voted out of office. Lets move forward American. God is watching

    June 25, 2009 at 2:56 pm |
  26. KL

    This bill is critical to ensure that people think twice before committing a crime based on bias.

    June 25, 2009 at 2:57 pm |
  27. Thomas

    I Believe It Should Be Passed.

    June 25, 2009 at 2:57 pm |
  28. Albert

    Again, people are looking to use the death of a gay person a reason for special laws to be passed. This nation has given gays more then what the average citizen has been given, as far as laws are concerned. It is time to stop and think about what we are doing here. Just because someone is gay doesn't mean that they will not provoke people to act out of anger. I have experienced gay men being much too aggressive about their sexual intentions and I became very angry that I wasn't able to walk down the street without someone gay guy that only see me as a sexual possibility. The word "homosexual" is what it is; a person that concerns themselves with sex. I am sure that those states that has passed same sex marriage will realize their mistake within the next 5 – 10 years. HIV and AIDS will spread, the medical cost, medicare cost, disability cost and more.

    June 25, 2009 at 2:59 pm |
  29. Logan

    as a bisexual living in a conservative area where people are not afraid of acting on they feelings of hate I think that we need something like this to protect the well being of people who are different and can be harmed based on who they are

    June 25, 2009 at 2:59 pm |
  30. Carl Knudsen

    The hate crimes bill is very important to protect the Gay and Lesbian community. Every gay person I know has been victimized at some point because they are gay. Some attacked with a baseball bat and left to die, others terrorized with threats. This is not an attempt for special rights, or censorship. This is a requirement to provide all people protection by the laws of this country against terrorism of all kinds.

    June 25, 2009 at 2:59 pm |
  31. Dean H. - San Francisco

    Well since I've had someone take a swing at my skull with a 3 foot pipe wrench, for just walking down the street, and they thought I looked gay, I'd say yes.

    Since I didn't report this to the police because I knew what their reaction would be (I lived in Phoenix AZ at the time), nothing, I'd say yes.

    If you have not been in a situation where you know the people you pay to protect you won't, you don't understand what it means.

    June 25, 2009 at 3:00 pm |
  32. frank

    this bill should not be passed, all crimes are hate crimes! hate crimes legislation is just a way for liberals in america to do an end-run around the first amendment, they (liberals) absolutely despise hate speech and the fact that it is protected by our constitution. of course i am not for hate speech, but i think our first amendment is very important to maintain our free society, these laws however are engineered by people who think we'd be better off without those first amendment rights that allow people to say hateful and insensitive things. they see hate crime laws as the first step, a way to punish people for badthink, these laws will only increase in scope and severity, until hateful speech is seen as a form of assault and declared illegal as well.

    June 25, 2009 at 3:00 pm |
  33. Rob

    Absolutely, Pass the Hate Crimes bill! As a Pastor I believe that Gay people are created by God. All people are equal and our laws should respect the dignity of each person. We only fear what we do not understand.

    June 25, 2009 at 3:02 pm |
  34. Leonardo Montenegro

    Religion has nothing to do with the law and for these 2 Republican Representatives to be against this Bill is PATHETIC, to say the list. To me it's IGNORANCE, point blank. A hate crime is SIMPLY THAT: a HATE crime. Someone that hates the other for WHATEVER reason and decides to hurt or in Mathew's case, go to the next step and kill, JUST AND ONLY BECAUSE, the person was not the same religion, gender, race, or as in this case sexual orientation as the killer. This is a Bill about CRIME, regardless how one feels about gay people.

    June 25, 2009 at 3:04 pm |
  35. wayland dye

    change is never easy. hate crimes of any kind do not belong on the face of of this planet.. evolving to a higher leval where everyone is equal will happen and cannot be stoped. how many more need to die or be abused just for being different. one life is the point, christ proved just that point. anyone anywhere anytime has the right to walk in peace. i am so proud to be a gay man,a american man . if for any reason your not a posative supprotave human, well im sorry for you. your missing the point of life.

    June 25, 2009 at 3:07 pm |
  36. dr. bob

    This hate crime bill , simply EXTENDS protection to gays and lesbians and other minorities who are not already included (religions and some minorities are already included). All of the arguments against this bill fall short of explaining why other groups are already named for specific protection but others (lgbt) are not. To exclude one group from protection is discrimination, bigotry and against our constitutional guarantees. This bill does not stop freedom of speech, or expression. It stops HATE CRIMES. It doesn't stop yelling fire in a crowded theatre, it stops yelling KILL KILL KILLwhich is an act of violence.

    June 25, 2009 at 3:09 pm |
  37. John

    Unfortunately this law is needed. I had a gay cousin who was a sweet, beautiful, naive young man. He was lured into a remote wooded area by someone at a gay bar who told him he was gay. The animal who lured him had friends waiting and they beat him to death with clubs and baseball bats. He had to have a closed casket ceremony because of the severity of the beating.
    This hate crime was motivated purely because he was gay, not robbery etc.
    Even though this was a blatant act of premeditated murder, the defendants were found 'not guilty' by using the Gay Panic excuse. When people stop being targeted for harassment, assault & murder because of their religion, race or sexual orientation, we won't need the law. Sadly, at this point in our nations history, we need the law because of bigoted judges and juries who let people get away with murder.

    June 25, 2009 at 3:11 pm |
  38. Jim

    Absolutely this hate crime bill needs to be expanded to include gays, for the simple reason that so many hate crimes are committed against gays. The congressman from South Carolina is using Christianity as a blanket to cover the real reason he would not vote to expand the hate crime bill: homophobia. This elected official needs to read the scripture that he exploits for political purposes. If he did, he would see that Jesus loves each one of us–gay or straight–with a love that surpasses all understanding.

    June 25, 2009 at 3:17 pm |
  39. Will Farrell

    America is all about equality for all,doing what is right is not allways popular and doing what is popular is not allways right,this is long overdue

    June 25, 2009 at 3:20 pm |
  40. Pearl

    This bill is long overdue. It is easy to rely on the "all crimes are equal" thought. It is another thing entirely when you are on the business end of hate, when you know you could be hurt or even killed just because of who you ARE. And, yes, I've been there.

    In the 1960s this nation learned (I thought) that ALL people should be accorded the same civil rights. ALL people are supposed to be equally protected under the law. Unfortunately, this does not always happen.

    When people are taught that some people are less than they – for whatever reason – they believe it is OK to harass, demean, refuse services to, assault, rape, or kill those "lesser" people. We've seen this in white/black relations, gay/straight, catholic/protestant, and a host of other situations.

    When people are taught to hate, they also overlook the actions of others who believe as they do. How often in the 60s did we see murders set free by a jury of their own race? How many crimes are not prosecuted because "she asked for it", "he deserves it 'cause he's gay?", "what did HE expect (said of a woman born transsexual)?", "she's only a crip", etc.?

    When ANY person in our wonderful country is made to feel less than others just because of who they are, ALL OF US are demeaned. Justice denied to ANY of us is justice denied to ALL of us!

    The argument that pastors will be forbidden to speak what THEY believe is truth is a red herring. People have the right to believe whatever they choose. But they do not have the right to harm someone because of those beliefs. The old dictum applies here – "your rights end at the beginning of my nose".

    Screaming "fire" in a crowded theater is not free speech. It is OK under our laws for the KKK to preach hatred of anyone not "white" (whatever that really is), but it is not OK to hang someone or burn their property. This law has the same concepts.

    This bill is long overdue. May it be passed quickly.

    June 25, 2009 at 3:32 pm |
  41. Bob

    I am a white middle aged tax paying husband and father. Suggesting the penalty should be greater for killing someone that does not look or act like me is ridiculous. Treat all criminals the same based on their actions, not on your opinion of what the criminal was thinking.

    June 25, 2009 at 3:39 pm |
  42. Dan

    Sticks and stones......
    Grow up! As far as I know, correct me if I'm wrong, but homosexuals, transgenders, disabled persons, and minorities have the right to free speech, the right to vote, and even the right to push for nonsensical bills. A hate driven crime is just that. It doesn't matter who it's perpetrated against. Look, my ancestors are Irish. So every time I see a leprechaun I should be fuming with anger and calling the troops. I don't because it's just a fact of life that stereotypes will always exist, and if that fact isn't excepted for what it is, and you can't just laugh about it and live together peaceably, then who knows what will become of our great nation. How about we wake up and try to address real issues like our disintegrating economy, the endless, undeclared wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and constant threats from North Korea.

    June 25, 2009 at 5:48 pm |
  43. Nancy Patton-King

    Yes indeed; it is LONG OVERDUE. Hate crimes are malicious ACTIONS; they are not just thoughts or words. I shudder when I hear so-called "men of God" (supposedly) and others say this bill supports a hidden agenda. It makes me wonder about THEIR agenda. The NOT-so-hidden agenda is protection for specific groups who are targets for the violent actions of others, and we all know that homosexuals have been persecuted in this country, quite often with fatal results. Say what you want, think what you want, but keep your hands off; do no physical harm...and sadly, we need a bill to enforce that.

    June 25, 2009 at 6:13 pm |
  44. Alexander Mackenzie

    Is a crime less a crime if it is done for fun, thrill, greed or anger than if done because of "hate"? If so, how? If not, that what is the reason for such a "motivational" type law? The "action of criminal conduct" is why arrest/punishment is done. Why a crime is comitted matters little when the deed is the crime, not why. And all criminal deeds should be punished for whatever they were, not why they were. Why a person is targeted for assault/murder/robbery or all of them means nothing unless the criminal action is done. And crime is crime, and not worse or lessened by the why.

    June 25, 2009 at 9:38 pm |
  45. Paula

    I agree as a victim of hate crimes I would love to see that.

    June 25, 2009 at 10:14 pm |
  46. marsh

    if someone does something cause harm thta should be a hate crime.. if someone tell u their belief or there feeling that not a hate crime –its how u feeel or beleive in.

    June 26, 2009 at 9:17 am |
  47. Troy D. Wilson

    It is truly a shame to have so much money, fame, and power, that there is no one BIG enough to offer any possibilty of help to a life that was glamerous on the outside but deprived and suffering on the inside. Michael Jackson is a classic example of a life that needed help, guidence, and direction. The sad reality, we wanted only to make a withdrawl from his life without any consideration to make a deposit. Not only to live happly, but to die with a fairer hope. Rest now Michael, your finally free.
    Troy Wilson

    June 26, 2009 at 9:54 am |
  48. terri

    Yes, please pass this bill! Hate-filled minds need outside deterrents to curb their selfish, insensitive, ignorant actions.

    June 26, 2009 at 11:16 am |
  49. Moses

    Michael Jackson had been a live monument, he's a monument, and will stay a monument for thousands of generation who love what he did as good and forgive whatever he was accused for.
    I am a father of four and in my country, Cameroon as in most of African countries, sharing a bed with kids or relative is not a crime, is instead what seal the real love between parents and children, or brothers and sisters. “Michael Jackson was a member of our family” (my nephew insisted for me to add it).
    Without showing his commitment to justice, Michael Jackson has been one of the powerful voices in the fight against poverty, injustice, and race. Black, white, yellow or whatever, we have all the same color of red blood flowing in our veins, God created us the same and for we have the commitment in front of GOD and People to remember that every single day in our existing live.

    June 26, 2009 at 12:31 pm |
  50. Martha S. Muhammad

    Michael Jackson was a "Magnipotent MasterPiece, there will never be another. Michael has taught the world a profound lesson, the art of mastery your gifts and talents. He was bold and authentic, his life is a divine vision of God (Allah).

    His life was govern with duality, which is a nature process in everyone life. Cars have two current, a negative and a positive.

    Everyone in America is in debt, so why can't Michael. Leave him alone.
    America has a Multi-Trillion dollars debt!

    Michael, is a Man that ill minded people took the advantage of, because of greed. He love people and espeically Children.

    His personality was gentle and refine.

    I want to be like Michael to honor the "Authenticity" of my life that will be imprinted in the hearts of Humans to deep within themselves to find the treasure that will impact the world.

    I said to the world be like Michael, live is a dance, song and entertainment, a great performance will earn you a Oscar and Grammy.


    June 26, 2009 at 12:32 pm |
  51. Gary

    It seems the federal government would like to make everything a "hate" crime. The penalties are much more severe and the "Fed's get to stick their noses in where they don't belong.

    June 26, 2009 at 4:59 pm |
  52. Zoe Brain

    According to the FBI, in 2007, although many Catholics were attacked in the course of being robbed etc, only 61 were attacked for being Catholic. They're protected by existing Hate Crimes laws already.

    And although many Protestants were attacked in the course of being robbed etc, only 59 were attacked for being Protestant. They're protected by existing hate crimes laws too,

    And there were many Gays attacked in the course of a robbery etc, but ONE THOUSAND FOUR HUNDRED AND SIXTY were attacked just for being Gay, and of that number, 5 were killed. They're not protected, you see.

    We can't be sure how many Trans people were attacked, as the current law doesn't even allow the FBI to track those numbers. We do know that 21 were killed though, just for being Trans, from newspaper and TV reports.

    Existing laws don't stop Catholics from being condemned from the pulpit by Baptists, nor Catholic Priests anathematising Baptists either. This is not about speech, only violent actions.

    And that strongly suggests that while most who oppose this law are misinformed, a significant number just want to be able to continue to attack Gays with impunity – because their friends, the local DA and Sheriff, are of like mind. As happened to Blacks prior to 1964.

    June 27, 2009 at 10:03 am |
  53. Justice For All

    Absolutely! No one should be a victim of hate or violence regardless of their humanity.

    July 3, 2009 at 2:29 pm |


    July 16, 2009 at 8:42 am |
  55. lilsexc1

    NO Idont think the bill should be passed.i agree with others a crime is a crime. And what ever actions need to be taken will be done.many people in this world that we live in get abrused every day what should make someone whom choese to change there live style any better then others.we are are all equal. I love all kind of people .if you choese to be other than the way you were born dont be mad if every one dont accept you. Black people were not accepted for a long time and in some places we still not. should we get our own bill...or whites for that matter,or people with disorders that they can even controll. whatn is so different.Be who are want to be and be proud of it.STOP looking for hand outs or help from the goverment.NO BILL SHOULD BE PASSED

    July 24, 2009 at 1:45 pm |
  56. Zoe Brain

    lilsexc1 – so how do you deal with the problem of the transphobic sherrif or DA who refuses to prosecute? Yes, the law should be the same for all. But it isn't, the facts show that.

    70% of homicides in the USA get cleared up.
    But when the victim is trans, it's only 30%.

    If trans people had the same rate of being murder victims as everyone else, one would be murdered every few years on average.

    Instead, over 20 per year are killed in provable "hate crimes".

    Treatment is not equal. If it were, there would be no need for this law.

    July 25, 2009 at 12:33 am |
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