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University of Miami Race & Social Justice Law Review

Article Title

Ten Years Fighting Hate

Authors

David A. Hall

Document Type

Article

Abstract

On October 28, 2009, President Barack Obama signed into law the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act (“the Act”). One of the goals of the Act was to broaden protections against crimes motivated by hatred for a person’s group membership (her perceived race, national origin, gender or gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, or religion). The Act intends to address the need for US law to recognize the particularly destructive and virulent nature of crimes motivated by this kind of animus toward minority groups. Such crimes can often have an outsized effect, because they are intended to terrorize not only the victim, but entire populations.

As we approach the tenth anniversary of the Act, this Article undertakes an endorsement of the Act in three Parts. The first Part examines the history and logic underlying the Act and considers challenges—both legal and philosophical—to the Act’s passage and enforcement. The second Part reviews prosecutions under the Act over the ten–year period from its enactment in 2009 through 2019, with consideration of variations in application among the federal Circuits, and the types of crimes most–often prosecuted under the Act. Finally, Part Three of this Article looks ahead to ways in which the Act may be amended, improved, and implemented over the next ten years—and beyond.

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