The US House of Representatives passed an anti-lynching bill on Wednesday that would make lynching a federal crime. The bill still needs to be passed in the US Senate and signed by the president to become law.
The House of Representatives passed an bill on Wednesday that would make lynching a federal crime. Similar legislation was first introduced over 100 years ago.
The Emmett Till Antilynching Act was introduced by Rep. Bobby Rush of Illinois. It was named after a 14-year-old boy who was lynched in Mississippi in 1955 after a white woman accused him of grabbing her and whistling at her. (Years later she recanted, saying the allegation was false, according to a historian. )
The bill still needs to be passed in the US Senate and signed by the president to become law. Similar legislation had been introduced to Congress since 1900 but failed nearly 200 times , The Washington Post reported.
“The importance of this bill cannot be overstated,” Rush, who is a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, said. “The passage of this bill will send a strong and clear message to the nation that we will not tolerate this bigotry.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi commended Rush for spearheading the bill, saying “we cannot deny that racism, bigotry and hate still exist in America.”
The act was met with bipartisan support, and passed 410-4. The four representatives voting against the bill included Independent Rep. Justin Amash and Republican Reps. Louie Gohmert, Thomas Massie, and Ted Yoho.
“I voted against (the bill) because the Constitution specifies only a handful of federal crimes, and leaves the rest to individual states to prosecute,” Massie, a representative from Kentucky, told The Courier Journal . “In addition, this bill expands current federal ‘hate crime’ laws.”
“A crime is a crime, and all victims deserve equal justice. Adding enhanced penalties for ‘hate’ tends to endanger other liberties, such as freedom of speech,” Massie added.
In a statement to Newsweek , Yoho described lynching as a “horrific act,” but said he believed the bill was an “overreach of federal government.”
“Hate crimes fall under the jurisdiction of states, which has led to 46 states producing various hate crime statutes,” Yoho said in the statement. “In my home state of Florida, these crimes are already under state government jurisdiction and are punishable up to death.”
A memorial for Till was erected in Mississippi where his body was found in the Tallahatchie River, but was constantly vandalized and riddled with bullet holes. The third replacement sign was made to be bulletproof and set up last October.