Statement by the President

                              THE WHITE HOUSE

                       Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
October 10, 1998
                        STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT

      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.

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