Hate Crimes Bill Signing
As the Governor of our diverse state, in all matters it is my desire to seek common ground for the common good. In the end, we are all Texans and we must be united as we walk together into the future.
That's why today I have signed House Bill 587 into law.
Texas has always been a tough-on-crime state. With my signature today, Texas now has stronger criminal penalties against crime motivated by hate.
This new law sends the signal to would-be criminals that if you attack someone because of their religion, or race, or gender, you face stiffer penalties and more time behind bars. If you attack a church or synagogue or mosque because of hate in your heart, we have a tough new law to deal with you.
Senator Ellis invited James Byrd's family to be with us today and I'm glad they are here. You have endured unimaginable pain that no Texan should have to endure. I hope you can find some peace in knowing that his death was not in vain as Texas today takes a strong stand against crime motivated by hate.
To Senator Ellis and Representative Thompson - I congratulate you on years of hard work and look forward to working with you on other issues this session and in future legislative sessions.
To Governor Ratliff and Speaker Laney - Texas would not have this new hate crimes law without your hard work and strong support.
This has been a long and emotional process for everyone involved in this bill. People of good conscience have weighed in on all sides of this debate, in both chambers of this great building and across our state, expressing honest and heartfelt differences about how hate crimes should be addressed.
I have expressed reservations about passing a hate crimes law which delineates particular groups of Texans. I continue to have questions about the eventual wisdom of dividing people, when our energies should be dedicated to bringing them together.
But I also believe that as the Governor - and as a Texan - I have an obligation to see issues from another person's perspective, to try to walk in another person's shoes. I have sought to do that in considering this bill and believe that it should now become law.
Some will disagree with my decision. I would simply ask that they also try to do what I have done - to walk in another Texan's shoes.
Almost exactly two years ago today - on May 13, 1999 - the Texas Senate was stopped in its' tracks as I worked with Senators Ellis, West, Shapiro, Sibley and other members to find common ground on this bill. It would take another two years to get it done.
Whether they voted for this bill or not, I know that every lawmaker in this great Capitol building is against hate. We're all against crime. And it's time for Texas to have strong and clear laws against hate crimes.
The message is clear - if you commit a crime in Texas we have tough laws to deal with you. And if you commit a crime of hate, our laws are tougher still.
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