HRC attends White House meeting on combatting hate crimes

The Human Rights Campaign joined key civil rights organizations, religious leaders and others today at a White House meeting on hate crimes. In the shadow of the recent hate-inspired murders in Illinois, Indiana and California, today's gathering took place at a time when it is evident that Congress should pass the Hate Crimes Prevention Act (HCPA), according to the Human Rights Campaign.

"Deadly hate crimes continue unabated as this legislation continues to be debated," says HRC Political Director Winnie Stachelberg. "In the aftermath of these grisly shootings, it should be abundantly clear to all people that hate crimes are increasing and that we need to pass the Hate Crimes Prevention Act. Today's conference adds momentum and hastens the call for passage of this important legislation."

Acting Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Bill Lann Lee and White House Counsel Charles Ruff spoke at the event. HRC was represented by Stachelberg, as well as by several lobbyists who are working on passage of the HCPA. The meeting primarily focused on passage of the Hate Crimes Prevention Act. Key Senate supporters are likely to offer the HCPA as an amendment to the Commerce, Justice, State appropriations bill when it reaches the floor as early as next week.

The strategy meeting took place following two recent deadly rampages from men with ties to the white supremacist group World Church of the Creator. An anti-Semitic and racially motivated Fourth of July weekend shooting spree by Benjamin Smith killed two people and injured nine others in Illinois and Indiana. On Friday, two brothers -- Jason Tyler Williams and Benjamin Matthew Williams -- were arrested for allegedly murdering a gay couple, Winfield Mowder and Gary Matson -- in Redding, Calif.

The lead sponsors of the Hate Crimes Prevention Act (HCPA) are Sens. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass.; Arlen Specter, R-Pa.; Gordon Smith, R-Ore.; Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.; Ron Wyden, D-Ore.; and Reps. John Conyers, D-Mich; Michael Forbes, R-N.Y.; Connie Morella, R-Md; Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis.; and House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt, D-Mo. The Hate Crimes Prevention Act has strong support from President Clinton and the administration has made passage a priority. The Human Rights Campaign is the largest national lesbian and gay political organization, with members throughout the country. It effectively lobbies Congress, provides campaign support and educates the public to ensure that lesbian and gay Americans can be open, honest and safe at home, at work and in the community.

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