Thursday, October 7, 2010

Searching for Hate Crimes Law

Recently a caller asked for help finding online the hate crimes law that Pres. Obama signed. Here's what I walked him through:

  1. Go to Thomas, the Library of Congress's site with bills and other congressional information.

  2. Under the search box, click on Try the Advanced Search.

  3. The default is searching the 111th Congress. That the current Congress and covers all the bills during Obama's administration. So we'll stay there.

  4. Type "hate crimes" in the search box.

  5. The search turns up H.R. 2647, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010.

    That might not look like a hate crimes law, but take a look at the summary. You'll see that it's a huge law -- so big that it has subdivisions that are themselves named laws. And one of them is the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

  6. If we go back from the summary to the first screen listing H.R. 2647, we can follow the link to the PDF of the public law. We find that the whole thing is 656 pages, and the hate crimes law starts on the 647th page. (Ctrl-f comes in handy!)

This post offers research tips about using Thomas and being aware that one named law can be wrapped up in a much bigger law. It is also a way of marking the 12th anniversary of Matthew Shepard's being beaten and left to die because he was gay. James Byrd, an African American man, was brutally murdered by three white men June 7, 1998.

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