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The White House, March 5, 1999
Office of the Press Secretary
Statement By The President

I share with many Americans a sense of grief and outrage at the tragic and violent death of Billy Jack Gaither in Alabama. This heinous and cowardly crime touches the conscience of our country, just as the terrible murders of James Byrd in Texas and Matthew Shepard in Wyoming did last year.

In times like this, the American people pull together and speak with one voice, because the acts of hatred that led to the deaths of such innocent men are also acts of defiance against the values our society holds most dear.

That is why I will continue to work for passage of the Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which can empower the federal government, working with local authorities, to do even more to deter, investigate and help prosecute crimes of hatred. The legislation would remove needless jurisdictional requirements and give the Department of Justice the power to prosecute hate crimes committed because of the victim's sexual orientation, gender or disability.

Laws represent values that we as a society cherish, and among those values is a belief that intolerance is un-American. And intolerance, left unchallenged, can inspire evil deeds that threaten the very fabric of this great country. All Americans deserve protection from hate. Nothing is more important to our country's future than our standing together against intolerance, prejudice and violent bigotry. Congress can give power to such shared values by passing the Hate Crimes Prevention Act. In so doing, all Americans can be made more safe and secure.

Hillary and I offer our prayers for the family and friends of Mr. Gaither, and our hope that their love for him, together with God's grace, will carry them through these trying times.


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