Should hate crime legislation include sexual orientation?
General Reference (not clearly pro or con)
Larry Margasak, Associated Press Writer, wrote the following information about the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 (H.R. 1913) in his Apr. 30, 2009 Associated Press article, "House Bill Would Provide Gays New Protections:"
"Victims of anti-gay violence would gain new federal protections under a revived and expanded hate crimes bill passed by the House on Wednesday [Apr. 29, 2009] over conservatives' objections.
Hate crimes - as defined by the bill - are those motivated by prejudice and based on someone's race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.
The bill, which passed 249-175, could provide a financial bonanza to state and local authorities, with grants for investigation and prosecution of hate crimes. The federal government could step in and prosecute if states requested it or declined to exercise their authority.
A weaker bill died two years ago under a veto threat from President George W. Bush. President Obama, in contrast, urged support, saying it would 'enhance civil rights protections, while also protecting our freedom of speech and association.' Obama called for passage in the Senate, where Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., is the chief sponsor...
The [new] House bill added protections based on sexual orientation, gender, gender identity and disability. Current law only permits federal prosecutions against crimes based on race, religion, color or national origin - and only when the victims are engaged in federally protected activity such as voting.
The opponents and supporters argued strenuously over whether the bill would divide or unite Americans."
[Editor's Note: On Oct. 22, 2009, the United States Senate passed the 2010 Defense Authorization Bill - with the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act attached - by a vote of 68-29. President Obama signed the bill into law on Oct. 28, 2009. The act broadens the Justice Department’s authority to investigate and prosecute hate crimes based on gender, gender identity, disability, and sexual orientation. It is the first federal law passed that includes protection for victims of sexual orientation related hate crimes. See which states have enacted hate crime laws that cover sexual orientation and gender (includes transsexuals).]
Should hate crime legislation include sexual orientation?
The National Center for Lesbian Rights, a national legal organization advocating for civil and human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, posted the following statements in its website's "Federal Legislation" section at nclrights.org (accessed May 7, 2009):
"Hate violence on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression is a serious national problem that should be addressed by Congress, and passage of a federal hate crimes act that covers sexual orientation and gender identity is long overdue. Federal statistics continuously show that sexual orientation remains the third highest recorded bias crime in the country, and anecdotal evidence makes it clear that anti-transgender hate violence occurs frequently, and especially against gender-nonconforming people of color. Federal legislation is a crucial tool for protecting the LGBT [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transexual] community against hate-motivated crimes by giving the federal government jurisdiction over these crimes where the current law is inadequate. It also sends a clear message that hate-motivated crimes are taken seriously by our government."
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), a national public interest organization advocating civil rights, wrote the following statements in a letter to Congress dated Apr. 16, 2009, regarding its position as a co-sponser of the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009:
"[E]xisting federal law does not provide any separate offense whatsoever for violent acts based on sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or disability... Federal legislation addressing such criminal civil rights violations is necessary because state and local law enforcement officers are sometimes unable or unwilling to prosecute those crimes because of either inadequate resources or their own bias against the victim. The prospect of such failure to provide equal protection of the laws justifies federal jurisdiction."
Human Rights Campaign, a nonprofit civil rights organization, stated the following on its website, HRC.org, in its section titled "About Hate Crimes," (accessed May 7, 2009):
"A bias motivated crime occurs when the perpetrator of the crime intentionally selects the victim because of who the victim is. The LLEHCPA [Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Protection Act] adds sexual orientation, gender identity, gender and disability to existing federal law conferring authority on the federal government to investigate and prosecute violent crimes. This authority already exists for crimes committed because of the victim’s race, color, religion and national origin. The LLEHCPA [Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Protection Act] thus brings more uniformity and fairness to existing law...
There is nothing 'special' about wanting to live free of violence in our society. Evidence shows that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans are frequent targets of violent bias motivated crimes. It would be inappropriate and irresponsible to leave this community out of the solution."
Dan Ponder, Jr., former Georgia State Representative (R), made the following comments during a Mar. 16, 2000 Georgia House of Representatives floor speech regarding hate crimes legislation:
"Hate is all around us. It takes shape and form in ways that are somehow so small that we don’t even recognize them to begin with, until they somehow become acceptable to us. It is up to us, as parents and leaders in our communities, to take a stand and to say loudly and clearly that this is just not acceptable...
To those that would say that this bill is creating a special class of citizen, I would say… [w]ho would choose to be a class of citizen or who would choose to be gay and risk the alienation of your own family and friends and co-workers? We are who we are because God alone chose to make us that way. The burdens that we bear and the problems that we are trying to correct with this legislation are the result of man’s inhumanity to man. That is hardly trying to create a special class of people.
Hate crimes are about sending a message... The gay person that is bashed walking down the sidewalk in midtown is a message to gay people... I believe that we must send a message to people that are filled with hate in this world... but it is also a message that you have to send to yourself."
Mathew Staver, JD, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel, was quoted as having said the following in the Apr. 20, 2009 WorldNetDaily.com article titled "How Hate Crimes Laws Forced Me Into Exile:"
"Hate crimes laws that include sexual orientation are a bad idea, because they elevate homosexuality to the same status as race and do nothing to prevent violent crimes. All crimes are motivated by hate. Hate crimes laws will not be used to punish the perpetrators but will be used to silence people of faith, religious groups, clergy, and those who support traditional moral values."
Louie Gohmert, JD, United States House Representative (R-TX), wrote the following statements in his Apr. 27, 2009 article "Hate Crimes Bill Infringes First Amendment Rights," published by HumanEvents.com:
"[A]lthough right now 'sexual orientation' may be said by some to include only heterosexual and homosexual preferences, someday some judges will begin to say that 'sexual orientation' means exactly what it says. It means whatever you are oriented toward sexually cannot be held against you. So, if you are oriented sexually toward children, or toward animals, or corpses, or shoes, or whatever, that's ok. Who are we to judge?...
Every potential victim deserves protection. Every victim deserves help. Who one sleeps with should not be a reason to give that person heightened protection over any other victim."
The Traditional Values Coalition, a religious lobbying organization, wrote the following position in its Apr. 17, 2009 article "So-Called Hate Crime Bill Threatens Religious Freedom," published on its website, TraditionalValues.org:
"This so-called hate crimes bill... claims that there is a national epidemic of hate directed against LGBT [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender] people. It claims this epidemic is so severe and widespread that these individuals flee to other states to escape persecution. In fact, it says that these individuals can’t find jobs or purchase goods in their home states because they’re so persecuted. And, when they travel across state lines, they’re pursued by their attackers!
Surely, if there are so many gays, lesbians and cross-dressers fleeing across state lines, the highway patrol would be aware of this. Wouldn’t this be national news?
If liberals really wanted to make LGBT [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender] persons into special protected classes, they should amend the 14th Amendment. They know, however, that Americans would never permit this - so they invent nightmare scenarios and use the Commerce Clause to justify federal intervention into local law enforcement affairs."
Harry R. Jackson, Jr., Bishop of the Fellowship of International Churches, wrote the following in his June 18, 2007 article titled "Why Do Gays Hate Religious Freedom?," published by TownHall.com:
"Instead of amending the hate crimes legislation that protects churches in a substantive way, [homosexuals] are simply crying out in a louder, more threatening manner. Gay advocates are not looking for fairness; they are looking for an upper hand.
Both gays and blacks should get justice in America, but we cannot allow either group to receive special privileges at the expense of another group of Americans. If the loopholes in this legislation are not closed, Christians and Bible-teaching churches could become victims of a strange brand of reverse discrimination. These actions are tantamount to the gay community saying, 'Freedom for me, but bondage for you.' This attitude is just not consistent with America’s ideals."
Sally Kern, Oklahoma State Representative for House District 84 (R), made the following comments during a Mar. 2008 town hall meeting in her district:
"[T]he homosexual agenda is destroying this nation. [S]tudies show that no society that has totally embraced homosexuality has lasted more than… a few decades. So it's the death knell for this country... I honestly think [the homosexual agenda] is the biggest threat that our nation has, even more so than terrorism or Islam… If we have hate crime [laws], our free speech will be silenced… If two little old ladies are both murdered… and one’s gay and [the] other isn’t, why should the one that was gay, [why should] her murderers receive a harsher crime than the ones who murdered the other little old lady? They're both dead. Murder is murder. So we’ve gotta watch; they are coming after these kinds of bills."