U.S. Senators Kamala D. Harris (D-CA) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) have asked for unanimous consent to pass the bipartisan Justice for Victims of Lynching Act, legislation that would criminalize lynching for the first time in American history. The motion was passed, marking a historic step towards the first federal anti-lynching law in the United States. The legislation was introduced recently by Sen. Harris, who was joined by her colleagues Senators Booker and Tim Scott (R-SC).

“Lynchings were acts of violence—they were horrendous acts of violence, and they were motivated by racism,” said Harris. “With this bill, we finally have a chance to speak the truth about our past and make clear that these hateful acts should never happen again. We can finally offer some long overdue justice and recognition to the victims of lynching and their families.”

“Lynching is not a relic of a painful past—it is a present and pernicious evil that we still have yet to confront,” said Booker. “Senate passage of the Justice For Victims of Lynching Act is a historic step towards acknowledging a long and painful history and codifying into law our commitment to confronting bias-motivated acts of terror in all of its forms. I urge the House of Representatives to take up this bill so that after over 100 years and 200 attempts, we can finally make lynching a federal crime.”

“The Senate has sent a strong signal that this nation will not stand for the hate and violence spread by those with evil in their hearts,” Scott added. “I look forward to this important legislation ending up on the President’s desk for signature.”

According to data from the Equal Justice Initiative, lynching was used as an instrument of terror and intimidation 4,084 times during the late 19th and 20th centuries. From 1882 to 1986, Congress failed to pass anti-lynching legislation 200 times.

The Justice for Victims of Lynching Act is supported by the NAACP, the Anti-Defamation League, and the Equal Justice Initiative.