Texas committee approves hate-crimes measure
After hearing testimony from James Byrd Jr.s mother, Stella Byrd, the Texas house judicial affairs committee on Monday approved a hate-crimes measure that includes a sexual orientation provision. Named the James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Act for Byrd, who was dragged to his death behind a pickup truck in 1998, the bill would toughen penalties for crimes motivated by race, religion, color, disability, sexual orientation, age, gender, or national origin. It also would require annual reports of hate-crimes statistics by Texas counties. The panels two Republicans voted against the bill Monday. I oppose anything that does not treat everybody equally, Rep. Robert Talton said. The full house approved a similar hate-crimes bill in 1999, but the legislation died in a senate committee. Many lawmakers voted against the bill because of its sexual orientation provision. Rep. Senfronia Thompson, who is sponsoring this years hate-crimes bill, said she will delay consideration in the full house until the full senate takes action on its version. The state passed a hate-crimes bill in 1993, which increases penalties if a crime is proved to be motivated by bias and prejudice, but the measure has been criticized as vague and virtually unenforceable.