U.S. hate crime bills/laws
Senate hate-crimes bill S. 1105: (2007):
Proposed text. Passes Senate, and fails
"Senate Bill 1105: Unnecessary, unconstitutional, ungodly" Sign
at a Capitol rally on 2007-JUL-11. 1
Proposed federal hate crimes legislation:
Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) had introduced a hate-crimes bill to the Senate in
1997, 1999, 2001, and 2003. None were successful. Senator Gordon H. Smith (R-OR)
has sponsored or co-sponsored a hate-crimes bill in the senate for the previous
five consecutive Congresses. On 2007-APR-12, they joined to sponsor the Hate
Crimes Prevention Act of 2007, which Senators Smith and Kennedy are renaming
in honor of Matthew Shepard -- the young man who suffered an assassination death by crucifixion
in Wyoming. Its short title is the: "Matthew Shepard Local Law Enforcement
Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2007."
Smith's web site states:
" 'A principal responsibility of government is to protect and defend its
citizens and to come to the aid of the mistreated. As a nation founded on
the ideals of tolerance and justice, we simply cannot accept violence that
is motivated by bias and hate,' Smith said. 'Current law is limited. Our
proposal would change that, and change it permanently. As a tribute to
Matthew and in recognition of the tireless effort of his mother Judy, this
legislation will be known as the 'Matthew Shepard Bill'."
"Supported by a broad coalition of over 210 law enforcement, religious, and
civil rights groups, this bill will strengthen our nation's ability to
provide justice for victims of hate-motivated crimes. It corrects problems
in the current law by expanding the definition of a hate crime to include
sexual orientation, gender and disability." 2
Actually, the web site is in error. This bill will not "strengthen
our nation's ability to provide justice for victims of hate-motivated crimes."
Even though a companion bill. H.R. 1592, was
introduced by Representatives John Conyers (D-MI) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) with 171
cosponsors, and approved by the House, it faced an almost certain veto by the
President, even if were passed by the Senate. 3 The veto
likely because, in its effort to protect persons of all sexual orientations,
genders, gender identity and disability from
hate assaults, it would safeguard homosexuals along with heterosexuals and
The existing federal hate crimes act of 1968 is limited to a narrow range of
crimes and to only those hate crimes motivated by
race, color, religion, or national origin. H.R. 1592 and S. 1105 would expand hate-crimes coverage to include physically violent crimes in which the perpetrator was
motivated by hatred of the victim's sexual orientation, gender, gender
identity, or disability.
The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary. As of
2007-MAY-04, it had 43 cosponsors.
Text of S. 1105:
In common with H.R. 1592, the bill notes that:
||"The incidence of violence motivated by the actual or perceived race,
color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender
identity, or disability of the victim poses a serious national problem."
||"Such violence disrupts the tranquility and safety of communities and is
||"A prominent characteristic of a violent crime motivated by bias is that
it devastates not just the actual victim and the family and friends of the
victim, but frequently savages the community sharing the traits that caused
the victim to be selected."
||"Federal jurisdiction over certain violent crimes motivated by bias
enables Federal, State, and local authorities to work together as partners
in the investigation and prosecution of such crimes."
||"The problem of crimes motivated by bias is sufficiently serious,
widespread, and interstate in nature as to warrant Federal assistance to
States, local jurisdictions, and Indian tribes."
If the bill is signed into law, it would only be applicable if:
||A crime occurs that includes an assault, aggravated assault, or shooting,
||It can be shown that the perpetrator was motivated to commit the law
because of hatred of one of the protected groups, and|
||If the crime included:|
||Travel across a state line or national border, or
Used a "channel, facility, or instrumentality of interstate or
foreign commerce," or
||A weapon that has traveled in interstate or foreign commerce, or
||An interference with commercial or other economic activity.
A serious deficiency in the bill:
In common with H.R. 1592, the bill contains a near fatal deficiency in the "Definitions" section, 249 (c).
It contains no definition for "sexual orientation." It is fairly common for
fundamentalists and other evangelical Christians to
define basic terms one way while mainline Christians, progressive
Christians, secularists, members of other religions, medical professionals,
mental health professionals, human sexuality researchers, and others define them
differently. Sexual orientation is no exception.
The nearly universally accepted definition of "sexual
orientation" is related to the gender of those
whom a person finds sexually attractive: people with a homosexual orientation
are attracted to the same gender; heterosexuals to the opposite gender;
bisexuals to both genders -- although not necessarily to the same degree.
Some conservative Christians define it very differently, and include gender,
age, species, and living/non-living status. As a result, the latter claim that
protecting people on the basis of sexual orientation will protect heterosexuals,
homosexuals, bisexuals as well as pedophiles, hebephiles, necrophiliac,
persons into having sex with animals. etc.
By not defining the term "sexual orientation" the sponsors of the bill leave
it potentially open to some rather unusual criticisms that could have been
easily prevented. According to commentary on Sirius Satellite Radio's OutQ program, a
number of evangelical Christian activist groups have claimed that there are not
three but thirty different sexual orientations, and that the proposed bill would
cover them all. Meanwhile, among essentially all religious liberals, human
sexuality researchers, therapists, gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transsexuals,
civil rights activists, mental health professional associations, etc. there are
only three sexual orientations: heterosexual, bisexual and homosexual. The
result of this situation is chaos.
Bill attached to defense bill:
Faced with a certain presidential veto, Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) attempted
to add S. 1105 to the Department of Defense Reauthorization bill. If the bill
were passed by Congress with the amendment in place, President Bush would be in
an awkward position: of either passing both bills or vetoing both. Passing both
bills is an unacceptable alternative to Bush, because it would protect people
from hate-motivated crimes on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender identity, gender or disability. Vetoing both is
even more unacceptable because it would starve the Armed Forces of funding.
Religious and social conservatives are crying foul at what they regard as a
"shameless" and "manipulative" maneuver. However, it is a very commonly used
method by which Democrats and Republicans have used to force bills that are
the majority in Congress but faced a presidential veto.
Joe Glover of the Family Policy Network said the move is
"... shockingly manipulative. It is a shameless attempt to push the
homosexual agenda on the American people by exploiting American soldiers who
are currently in harm's way around the world." 4
Actually, protecting homosexuals would be only part of the bill's effect; it
would also protect heterosexuals, bisexuals, men, women, and the disabled -- in
short, all Americans.
Bill passes Senate:
The Matthew Shepard Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act (S.
1105) was passed on 2007-SEP-27. The Senate voted 60 to 39 to end a filibuster.
This included 49 Democrats, 9 Republicans and two independents. All of the "no"
votes came from Republicans. The bill itself
then passed on a voice vote. 5
A virtually identical House bill was passed on MAY-03 by a bipartisan vote of
237 to 180. It has been attached to a Department of Defense authorization bill that is currently before the Senate.
Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) likened hate crimes to terrorism and said that the
Defense bill is a perfect fit for it. He said:
"The defense authorization is about dealing with the challenges of
terrorism overseas. ... This [bill] is about terrorism in our neighborhood."
The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) of
the Southern Baptist Convention published a report on the bill titled: "Senate
OKs homosexuals in hate crimes bill." In reality, the bill would not simply
protect gays and lesbians. It would protect everyone, whether homosexual,
bisexual or heterosexual. Tom Strode of the ERLC reported:
"Supporters of the controversial measure gained its passage as an
amendment to the Department of Defense authorization bill, purportedly to
make it difficult for President Bush to veto. The White House, however, has
promised a veto by the president, even if it is part of the Defense bill."
" 'I hope and pray that if this bill makes its way to the president's
desk that he will fulfill his promise to veto it," said Richard Land,
president of" the ERLC. 6
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said that S. 1105 jeopardized
passage of the entire Defense bill. He said:
"Do we want to protect the defense policy matters in this bill that
actually matter to our forces in the field, or do we want to debate
political and social issues on this measure?" the Kentucky Republican said
in floor debate before the votes. 5
Judy and Dennis Shepard, Matthew Shepard's parents said:
"Today's Senate vote sends a bold and unmistakable message that violent
crimes committed in the name of hate must end. The Matthew Shepard Act is an
essential step to erasing hate in America and we are humbled that it bears
our son's name. It has been almost nine years since Matthew was taken from
us. This bill is a fitting tribute to his memory and to all of those who
have lost their lives to hate." 7
Judy Shepard, Executive Director of the Matthew Shepard Foundation, said:
"We are especially thankful to Senator Gordon Smith (R-OR) and Senator
Ted Kennedy (D-MA) for their unwavering leadership in ensuring the passage
of this bill." 7
Defense authorization bill approved by the Senate:
The Senate approved a defense authorization bill
for $648 billion. It included:
||About $142 billion to continue the war in Iraq and
||A 3.5% increase in pay for military personnel,
||Almost $950 million for military health care,
||Almost $24 billion for armored vehicles that
can withstand roadside bombs.
But President Bush has promised to veto the entire
bill because it contains the hate crimes legislation as an amendment. That part
of the appropriation bill has been strongly opposed by social and religious
conservatives because would protect homosexuals.
Actually, the bill would protect persons of both genders, all sexual
orientations (heterosexual, homosexual and bisexual),
all gender identities, and all types of disabilities.
That is, it would protect every person in the U.S. equally. If he does veto the
bill, he would be making history because no president in the history of the
United States has ever vetoed a defense authorization bill.
Tony Perkins, president of the fundamentalist
Christian Family Research Council, said: "This puts our brave men and
women at risk just so they can curry favor with homosexuals. That is about as
un-American as it gets." He was apparently referring to the hate-crime
amendment itself, not to President Bush's expected veto.
Final status of S 1105:
The Matthew Shepard Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act (S.
1105) was successfully added to the DoD Defense Authorization Bill (H.R. 1585)
on 2007-SEP-27. However, it was later removed. According to the Human Rights
"The hate crimes veto threat issued by the White House and organized
opposition by House Republican Leadership cost significant numbers of votes on
the right. Iraq-related provisions that many progressive Democrats opposed cost
votes on the left. Moderate Democrats, many of whom voted for the hate crimes
bill in May, did not want to test the President's veto threat and risk a delay
in increased pay for military personnel. All of these factors resulted in
insufficient votes to secure passage of the DoD bill with the hate crimes
For more information on S 1105,
please read essays on the companion bill H.R. 1592. The wordings of both
bills are essentially identical.
See also reaction to this bill by
both religious conservatives and liberals
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
Michelle Vu, "Hate Crimes Bill Opponents Protest for Right to Preach on
Biblical Sin," Christian Post, 2007-JUL-12, at:
"Senators Kennedy and Smith Introduce Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes
Prevention Act," Matthew Shepard Foundation, 2007-APR-13, at:
"H.R. 1582," text, at: http://thomas.loc.gov/
Bob Unruh, "Kennedy cramming hate crimes into defense bill. 'Shameless
attempt to push homosexual agenda ... by exploiting soldiers'," WorldNetDaily,
S.A. Miller, "Gay protection tacked onto defense bill," The Washington
Times, 2007-SEP-28, at:
Tom Strode, "Senate OKs homosexuals in hate crimes bill," ERLC, 2007-SEP-27,
- "Senate passes the Matthew Shepard Act! One step closer to erasing hate,"
Matthew Shepard Foundation news release, 2007-SEP-27.
"The Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act / Matthew Shepard Act
," Human Rights Campaign, 2008-OCT-06, at:
Copyright © 2007 to 2009 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
First posted: 2007-MAY-04
Latest update: 2009-JUN-28
Author: B.A. Robinson