Matthew Shepard And James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act Four Years Later: Demonstrating Its Value

  • October 28, 2013

This week marks the fourth anniversary of the signing of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act (HCPA).  The HCPA is the most important, comprehensive, and inclusive hate crime enforcement law enacted in the past 40 years. In addition, passage of the act has sparked a welcome round of police training and outreach – and the development of a number of significant new hate crime training and prevention resources. 


It is appropriate to pause to reflect on the extraordinarily broad coalition ADL was privileged to lead in support the HCPA – including over 250 civil rights, education, religious, civic, and professional organizations and, crucially, virtually every major law enforcement organization in the country. Originally drafted in 1996, progress on the bill was stalled, Congress after Congress, because of persistent, adamant – and erroneous – concerns about the impact of the bill’s coverage of hate crimes directed at individuals because of their sexual orientation. In the end, even after 13 long years of advocacy, with the strong support of President Obama and Attorney General Holder, the measure still had to be attached to “must-pass” legislation – the Department of Defense FY 2010 Authorization bill – in order to be enacted into law.

But now, four years later, advocates cannot doubt that the titanic efforts to enact the HCPA by Senate and House champions and the hate crime coalition were worthwhile. Here are highlights of some of the important advances since the enactment of the HCPA, Public Law 111-84.


  • Lawyers from the Department of Justice (DoJ) Civil Rights Division, FBI agents, and professionals from DoJ’s Community Relations Service have trained thousands of state and local law enforcement officials from more than a dozen states on the HCPA’s new tools and federal-state partnership opportunities.  


  • DoJ has investigated dozens of cases and has brought indictments in about 20 cases, including several cases in states that lack their own hate crime laws.    
  • Under the expanded authority of the HCPA, Justice Department lawyers have provided forensic and other investigative assistance to state and local law enforcement officials prosecuting cases under their state laws. 
  • In coordination with several lead US Attorneys, DoJ has vigorously defended the HCPA in both facial and as applied constitutional challenges. 

Hate Crime Data Collection