October 23, 2009

American Psychological Association Applauds Congress For Passage of Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crime Prevention Act

Association says measure will strengthen the nation's response to bias-motivated crimes by providing new authority for federal officials to address hate violence more effectively.

WASHINGTON—The American Psychological Association applauded Congress on Friday for passing the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crime Prevention Act, a measure that will strengthen the nation's response to bias-motivated crimes by providing new authority for federal officials to address hate violence more effectively.

The legislation passed the Senate on Thursday as part of the FY 2010 Department of Defense authorization bill. The House approved the legislation Oct. 8, and President Obama is expected to sign the measure into law shortly.

"In addition to the physical wounds that hate crimes can leave behind, they can also have serious consequences for the mental health and well-being of victims and communities," said APA CEO Norman B. Anderson, Ph.D. "This bill takes a critical step toward ensuring justice for all victims of hate crime."

In 2007, the FBI documented 7,624 bias-motivated incidents targeting a variety of groups. Currently, federal hate crime law only protects victims of crimes motivated by bias based on race, religion or national origin.

The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crime Prevention Act will improve the nation's response to hate crimes by:

  • expanding current law to recognize crimes motivated by actual or perceived religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability;
  • enabling the federal government to address those cases that other jurisdictions are either unable or unwilling to investigate and prosecute, while retaining primary responsibility for hate crime prosecution at the state and local level; and
  • expanding the scope of data collection and reporting requirements regarding hate crime.

The American Psychological Association has actively supported this legislation for more than a decade and worked alongside a broad coalition of civil rights, religious, educational, professional, law enforcement and civic organizations toward its enactment.

The American Psychological Association, in Washington, D.C., is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States and is the world’s largest association of psychologists. APA’s membership includes more than 150,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 54 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 60 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance psychology as a science, as a profession and as a means of promoting health, education and human welfare.