By Tom Johnson Hoya Staff Writer

Senator Carl Levin (D-Mich.) pledged his endorsement yesterday of a federal Hate Crimes Prevention Act that, if passed into law, would expand the definition of hate crimes to include crimes committed because of the victim’s sexual orientation, gender or disability. It would also allow stronger prosecution of crimes motivated by racial bias.

Levin said, however, that hate crime legislation may or may not deter crime. The reason for passing the legislation, he said, is “because it makes a community statement” about the principles to which America is committed.

He said correcting the problem of hate crimes is a “matter of the heart” and that the question one must ask in dealing with this problem is, “Do you want to stop it if you legally can?” As an example, Levin pointed out that the current bill contains a clause explaining how hate crimes pose a threat to interstate commerce. Legislators anticipate that their best bet of having the constitutionality of the bill upheld in court is by invoking the commerce clause of the constitution.

He also said that while passing legislation is important, “ultimately, the battle against hate is going to be won or lost in our homes and our classrooms.” He encouraged the building of organizations like the Georgetown Unity Coalition, which was created in response to a series of hate-related incidents on campus this semester.

Levin’s definition of hate would include items such as the Bob Jones University Web site. “[The Web site] is hateful, anti-Catholic and will promote anti-Catholic action,” he said.

Levin agrees with instituting aggravated punishments for perpetrators of hate crimes because it sends a message that America is a society interested in protecting the civil rights of its citizens. He said that he does not want to abridge freedom of speech by preventing citizens from thinking hatefully, but that he does want to prevent actions such as hateful graffiti on walls, which is property destruction and the use of public space to express private views.

“Our nation is constantly marred by actions that are racist,” he said.

Levin also spoke of the prospects for peace in the Middle East, a topic in which he is especially interested. “We are finally on the verge of a true peace,” he said.

Levin’s remarks came one day after President Clinton failed to convince Syrian President Hafez Assad to resume peace talks with Israel, and spokespeople for the White House said that little to no progress is being made in that direction.

Levin, who is Jewish, said that he did support the creation of a Palestinian state.

The event was sponsored by the Georgetown-Israel Alliance and co-sponsored by the College Democrats, NAACP, GU Pride and the International Relations Club. It took place in Healy 104 and was attended by about 50 people.

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