Senator Begich Listens to Alaskans, Co-Sponsors the Matthew Shepard Act

Senator Mark Begich has become a co-sponsor of the Matthew Shepard Act, the hate crimes prevention bill currently before the Senate, despite being targeted by opponents. 

Earlier this month, Alaskans Together reported that Begich was "getting lots of calls from our opponents asking him to vote against the Matthew Shepherd Act."

"This is a time when we need to raise many, many Alaskan voices to give our senators the support they need to vote with us," wrote Marsha Buck of Alaskans Together for Equality.

Bent Alaska posted the call to action and sent it to other Alaskan blogs that are concerned with civil rights. Sen. Begich received many supportive calls. 

"He did get the message," wrote Diane DiSanto from Senator Begich's office. "More Alaskans called to support it, and most of the negatives were from out of state."

The Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act (S 909) was introduced in the Senate on April 28 "to provide Federal assistance to States, local jurisdictions, and Indian tribes to prosecute hate crimes." The House approved it last month, although Don Young voted against it. President Obama supports the measure. 

Opponents argue that enforcing hate crime penalties will protect pedophiles. They use this threat to oppose all anti-discrimination and civil rights measures that include sexual orientation.

Senator Begich's response on the Matthew Shepard Act:

"Thank you for your letter regarding federal hate crimes legislation.


"The Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act (LLEHCPA)/Matthew Shepard Act gives the Department of Justice (DOJ) the power to investigate and prosecute bias-motivated violence by providing the DOJ with jurisdiction over crimes of violence where the perpetrator has selected the victim because of the person's actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.  It does not and cannot infringe on an American's right to free speech.


"The Act provides the DOJ with the ability to aid state and local jurisdictions either by lending assistance or, where local authorities are unwilling or unable to act, by taking the lead in investigations and prosecutions of bias-motivated, violent crimes resulting in death or serious bodily injury.  The LLEHCPA also makes grants available to state and local communities to combat violent crimes committed by juveniles, train law enforcement officers or assist in state and local investigations and prosecutions of bias-motivated crimes.  It covers only these violent crimes, not beliefs or expressions of belief.


"In addition, the Act is endorsed by over 280 law enforcement, civil rights, civic and religious organizations, including: the National Sheriffs' Association, International Association of Chiefs of Police, National District Attorneys Association, Presbyterian Church, Episcopal Church, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Young Women's Christian Association and National Disability Rights Network.


"Thank you for expressing your concerns on this issue.  Please contact me again with your thoughts as the 111th Congress progresses."

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