Thursday, July 16, 2009

Congress debates hate crimes bill

While members of the Senate Judiciary Committee continued to question Judge Sonia Sotomayor during her Supreme Court nomination hearing, lawmakers also debated a bill that would add sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, among other things, to federal anti-hate crimes statutes.

Lawmakers could vote on the bill, dubbed the Matthew Shepard Act, by the end of the week. Legislators have attacked the proposed legislation to a $680 billion defense spending bill. And U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer [D-N.Y.] was among those who spoke in support of the bill yesterday.

Schumer evoked Ecuadorian immigrant José Sucuzhañay, who was allegedly beaten to death by Hakim Scott and Keith Phoenix on a Bushwick street corner last December as he and his brother walked home arm-and-arm from a nearby bar, during his testimony.

"This bill sends a clear message to those perpetrators and others that in America we don't tolerate violence against vulnerable communities," Schumer said.

A vote on the bill could come as early as this afternoon.

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