July 17, 2009
Thank you for contacting me regarding the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 (LLEHCPA). It's good to hear from you.
This legislation defines a hate crime as a willful act causing "bodily injury to any person or, through the use of fire, a firearm, or an explosive or incendiary device, attempts to cause bodily injury to any person, because of the actual or perceived religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability of any person."
LLEHCPA increases penalties for hate crimes and expands the definition to include crimes motivated by a victim's actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability. It also removes the requirement that hate crime victims be engaged in a federally-protected activity, such as voting, and gives federal authorities increased resources to investigate hate crimes that local authorities decline to pursue.
The motive behind a criminal's actions should not determine the punishment, and by offering increased protection to certain groups, the federal government is reversely offering decreased protection to others.
As witnessed by other countries pursuing similar paths, hate crimes legislation lays the legal foundation for investigating and prosecuting religious leaders and private citizens who choose to exercise their right to speak freely against certain activities or lifestyles. This preemption of state law and expansion of federal jurisdiction further contributes to the erosion of state and local governance.
Despite advancements in our criminal justice system, many violent criminals still go unpunished and their victims never receive justice. By enforcing laws already in place, those involved in committing crimes will face the consequences of their actions. All violent criminals should be punished to the full extent of the law-no matter what the motive-and that's why I oppose this legislation. Nobody deserves to be the victim of a violent crime, and I remain committed to providing Montana's law enforcement agencies with the tools needed to prosecute criminals, regardless of their motivation.
LLEHCPA has been referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary. While I'm not a member of this committee, I will keep your thoughts in mind if this bill comes before the House of Representatives.
Thanks for contacting me about the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act. If you get a chance, I encourage you to visit my website at Congressman Denny Rehberg : Home
where you can find the latest news about what's happening in Congress. Also, if you haven't already done so, please be sure to sign up for my free E-Newsletter at Congressman Denny Rehberg : Home
which will help keep you up-to-date with what is going on in Washington, D.C. and how it affects Montana. It's a good source for news stories, blog posts and to read what other Montanans just like you are saying.