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Statement on the Attack on Matthew Shepard

October 10, 1998

I was deeply grieved by the act of violence perpetrated against Matthew Shepard of Wyoming.

The Justice Department has assured me that local law enforcement officials are proceeding diligently to bring those responsible to justice. And I am determined that we will do everything we can and offer whatever assistance is appropriate.

Hillary and I ask that your thoughts and your prayers be with Mr. Shepard and his family, and with the people of Laramie, Wyoming. In the face of this terrible act of violence, they are joining together to demonstrate that an act of evil like this is not what our country is all about. In fact, it strikes at the very heart of what it means to be an American and at the values that define us as a nation. We must all reaffirm that we will not tolerate this.

Just this year there have been a number of recent tragedies across our country that involve hate crimes. The vicious murder of James Byrd last June in Jasper, Texas, and the assault this week on Mr. Shepard are only among the most horrifying examples.

Almost one year ago I proposed that Congress enact the "Hate Crimes Prevention Act." Our Federal laws already punish some crimes committed against people on the basis of race or religion or national origin, but we should do more. This crucial legislation would strengthen and expand the ability of the Justice Department to prosecute hate crimes by removing needless jurisdictional requirements for existing crimes and by giving Federal prosecutors the power to prosecute hate crimes committed because of the victim's sexual orientation, gender, or disability. All Americans deserve protection from hate.

There is nothing more important to the future of this country than our standing together against intolerance, prejudice, and violent bigotry. It is not too late for Congress to take action before they adjourn and pass the "Hate Crimes Prevention Act." By doing so, they will help make all Americans more safe and secure.

William J. Clinton, Statement on the Attack on Matthew Shepard Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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