It should be noted that prior to this Act, only a narrow definition of victims of hate crimes was considered. In this case, the only groups recognized were religion, national origin, color, ethnicity or race. The purpose of the Hate Crime prevention Act was to expand the definition or the categories of people who may qualify as victims of hate crimes in the eyes of the law. Additionally, because the legislation is also designed to assist local authorities, then chances are that it will prevent occurrence of hate crimes through the rigorous training and interventions proposed in the Act.
(Human Rights Campaign, 2007) It should be noted that a high percentage of people were motivated to consider hate crimes as a likely issue owing to the fact that this category of crimes are usually quite severe. In fact no single person should ever tolerate being harmed, brutalized, beaten, attacked or hurt in any way just because of what or who they are. This is one of the reasons why the legislations stirred up a lot of reactions from various interest groups. Besides these, it should be noted that the prevention of hate crimes dates back to as far back as the nineteen sixties.
At that time, the issue of race was particularly sensitive and many violence based crimes were committed against racial minorities. Consequently, it became necessary for civil rights groups to rise to the occasion by speaking out against these forms of violence. This was the reason why there were certain movements that occurred in that era. In the year 1968, legislation was passed to prevent such hate based crimes. Ever since that time, the definitions of violence based crimes began increasing to a point where a substantial majority of individuals who were commonly affected by such crimes were included in the definition.
However, with the passage of time, violence against people with different sexual orientations, gender identities and gender have become increasingly common. This has caused wide concerns from a series of stakeholders thus necessitating the Matthew Sheppard Act. This also means that there is a need to create a situation in which most of the people who may be future victims are protected by the legislation. Numerous individuals have demonstrated their support for the legislation. Some of them emanate from political groups, civic rights organizations, religious group and many others.
President George Bush was one of the many supporters of this Bill. The Episcopal Church and Presbyterian Churches were also some of the religious groups that demonstrated their support for this legislation. Additionally, the International Association of chiefs of Police also showed their support for this piece of legislation. Additionally, many groups such as the National Disability Rights Network, The Interfaith Alliance, The National District Attorney’s Association and well known attorney General Dick Thornburgh have demonstrated their support of this Act.
(US Department of Justice, 2008) Besides individual endorsements by numerous groups, one cannot ignore the fact that the overall public usually supports legislations designed to combat hate crimes. This is something that was ascertained through opinion polls. In 2007, the Hart Group; a research based company found that almost all subgroups within the electorate supported legislations designed to combat hate crimes. These subgroups included certain categories that were normally considered as very conservative. For instance, fifty six percent of all republicans support this legislation.
Also, sixty three percent of evangelical Christians threw their weight behind laws that would allow inclusion of persons with transgender identity and differing sexual orientation. In terms of racial support, it appears as though almost all races support this legislation. For instance, the same research group found that in that year, close to seventy four percent of the entire white respondents demonstrated their support for the bill. Additionally, a similar percentage of African Americans threw their weight behind the Bill while seventy two percent of Latinos supported this Act. (National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, 2007)