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GOP Senators Block Legislation to Expand the Scope of Hate Crimes

June 12, 2002|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- Senate Republicans blocked action on a hate crime measure Tuesday, refusing to cut off debate on a bill that would make a federal crime of violent attacks prompted by victims' sexual orientation or disabilities.

Democrats, pushing the measure in an election year, said they would try again.

"Senate Republicans made clear that they will not take action to fight terrorism at home," said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), a longtime champion of the bill. "Today's vote is a clear sign of the lack of commitment by Senate Republicans on this basic civil rights issue."

The bill would add crimes motivated by sex, sexual orientation and disability to the list of offenses already covered under a 1968 hate crime law that prohibits attacks based on race, religion or national origin. It would allow federal prosecutors to pursue a hate crime case if local authorities refuse to press charges.

The 54-43 vote derailed efforts to win a speedy vote on the legislation and send it to the House, which has rejected it twice in recent years. While it takes only a simple majority to pass a bill, a motion to end debate to allow consideration of the bill itself requires 60 votes.

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