"Concerns about hate crimes have become increasingly prominent among policymakers at all levels of government in recent years. The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 (P.L. 103-322, Title XXVIII §280003a) defines a 'hate crime' as one in 'which the defendant intentionally selects a victim, or in the case of property crime, the property that is the object of the crime' motivated by prejudice based on the 'race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, gender, disability, or sexual orientation' of the victim. Current federal law permits prosecution of hate crimes committed on the basis of the victim's race, color, religion, or national origin while the victim was engaged in a federally protected activity such as voting or attending school. On October 28, 2009, the President signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act (P.L. 111-84, codified at 18 U.S.C. § 249). This law expands the scope of hate crime victims to include gender identity and disability. In addition, the law broadens the circumstances under which the federal government may assert jurisdiction to prosecute such crimes. For hate crimes prosecuted federally under these provisions, the law requires that the Attorney General certify that pertinent state or local officials (1) were unable or unwilling to prosecute, (2) favored federal prosecution, or (3) prosecuted, but the investigation's or trial's results failed to satisfy the federal interest to combat hate crimes."
CRS Report for Congress, RL33099