Hate-crimes bill H.R. 1913: (2009):
House committee activity. Flaw in wording
2009-APR-23: The bill exits the House Judiciary Committee:
The committee debated the bill for two days. More than a dozen amendments
proposed by Republicans were defeated. By a 15-12 vote, the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act (H.R.
1913) was reported out of the House Judiciary Committee. 1 It was sent to the full House for a
On APR-28, President Obama issued a statement supporting HR 1913. It said:
"I urge members on both sides of the aisle to act on this important civil
rights issue by passing this legislation to protect all of our citizens from
violent acts of intolerance, -- legislation that will enhance civil rights
protections, while also protecting our freedom of speech and association.
I also urge the Senate to work with my Administration to finalize this bill
and to take swift action." 2
The bill, as approved by the House Judiciary Committee, contains a
group of definitions. Section 3 defines the terms "crime of violence" "hate
crime" and "local."
The term "crime of violence" means:
(a) an offense that has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened
use of physical force against the person or property of another, or
(b) any other offense that is a felony and that, by its nature, involves a
substantial risk that physical force against the person or property of another
may be used in the course of committing the offense. 3
The term " 'hate crime' has the meaning given
such term in section 280003(a) of the Violent Crime Control and Law
Enforcement Act of 1994 (28
U.S.C. 994)." i.e. a crime in which the defendant intentionally
selects a victim, or in the case of a property crime, the property that is the
object of the crime, because of the actual or perceived race, color, national
origin, ethnicity, gender, disability, or sexual orientation of any person."4
However, the bill contains many terms that are not defined, including "sexual
orientation," "gender identity," and "disability." This proved to be a fatal
flaw that raised needless opposition to the bill, and clouded its application.
An imprecise or ambiguous law can be difficult to apply.
About disability: The term "disability" sometimes refers to a physical condition that restricts
a person's actions. At other times it is used to refer to a mental impediment.
Finally, it less commonly can refer to legal or moral incapacity.
5 We suspect
that this act is intended to refer to both mental and physical disabilities, but
there is no way to be certain. One has to guess. An unclear law is
incompetently written and can
Sexual orientation: On 2009-APR-23, Representative Steve King (R-IA) said that "sexual
orientation" and "gender identity" are vague terms that need precise definition.
"This panel -- this Judiciary Committee, including the authors of this bill
-- either don't know or won't say what the definitions are, for example, [of]
gender identity [or] sexual orientation." Does sexual orientation...include
transvestism? Does it include transgender [sic]? Are those two that are also part of
sexual orientation? And if so, if that's two of 30 [orientations]. What are the
other 28 that are part of sexual orientation?"
It is probably news to the vast majority of North American adults that there
are 30 sexual orientations! Until recently, almost everyone have adopted the
definitions that mental health professional organizations, human sexuality
researchers and othersuse: that there are precisely three sexual
orientations. Each defines the gender to which a person is sexually attracted:
Those only attracted to members of the opposite sex are
Those only attracted to members of the same sex are homosexuals;
Those attracted to both men and women -- although not necessarily to the
same degree -- are bisexuals.
There are no other options concerning the sex or sexes to whom a person can
be attracted. There are no other sexual orientations, except for asexuality --
the lack of sexual attraction -- which some experts add as a fourth orientation.
At first glance, King may appear to misunderstand the meaning of the term
"sexual orientation." However, he seems to be following a definition promoted by
some conservative religious groups. The Concerned Women of America (CWA) and Traditional
Values Coalition (TVC) define sexual orientation very differently. They took:
The three generally accepted sexual orientations (heterosexuality,
Arbitrarily added a few behaviors, such as incest and prostitution;
And added 27 paraphilias as listed by the American Psychiatric Association in their "Diagnostic
and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders "
to produce about 30 "sexual
orientations." 6,7,8 According to Wikipedia, paraphilia "... is a
sexual term that describes a family of persistent, intense fantasies,
aberrant urges, or behaviors ..." 9 Examples of
paraphilias are voyeurism, bestiality, necrophilia, sexual masochism, sexual
sadism, having a foot fetish etc.
A few fundamentalist and other evangelical groups assert that there are over 30 sexual
orientations -- some of them criminal acts.
The vast majority of the
general population, including human sexuality researchers, counselors,
therapists, etc. accept that there are three sexual orientations.
If a person accepts this aberrant definition of the term "sexual orientation," they could argue that H.B. 1913 that
was intended to equally protect heterosexuals, homosexuals and bisexuals
would also protect persons engaging in sex with close family members, sex with
animals, sex with dead people, sexual abuse of children, rape, voyeurism, etc.
It is thus of critical importance for
all legislation involving sexual orientation to clarify exactly what the term
means. A definition
of the precise meaning of "sexual orientation" is absolutely necessary.
Unfortunately, Section 3 of the bill fails to
do this. This easily preventable oversight may well have caused the bill to fail in
Congress if Rep. King and others had been able to sow confusion over the scope of the bill.
Some conservative news sources have already attacked the bill's lack of
definition of "sexual orientation." For example:
Tony Perkins, President of the
Family Research Council, stated:
"Because the bill doesn't define the term 'sexual orientation,' some fear
that pedophiles and practitioners of other bizarre sexual fetishes would try to
claim protection under it. Democrats refused to amend the bill to explicitly
exclude such 'orientations'." 10
Jennifer Kennedy Cassidy, spokesperson for the
Coral Ridge Ministries wrote without even an inkling of doubt:
"... (H.R. 1913) gives special legal protection to pedophiles and makes any crime committed because
of the victim's "actual or perceived sexual orientation" subject to greater
penalties than a crime against an ordinary American. That means someone who
assaults a pedophile will be more severely punished under this law than
someone who mugs an elderly grandmother!" 11
The Legislative Action Committee of
Concerned Women for America discussed the hate-crimes prevention bill when
it was being considered by the House Judiciary Committee. They wrote:
"... there are dozens of types of 'sexual
orientation' that could be covered under this ill-defined term such as
bestiality, pedophilia and incest to name a few. ... How do we
know these are not covered by the bill if the terms are not defined?
An article by Rev. Ted Pike stated:
"If HR 1913 becomes law, inclusion of pedophiles under its special rights and protections means a homosexual pedophile has
preferential rights to police and legal services over you. They become members of a specially protected species within their "sexual
orientation." Law enforcement and the judicial system will become especially inclined to come to the homosexual pedophile's
defense and punish those who might threaten him."13
WorldNetDaily, published an article titled: "Next on Senate agenda? 'Pedophile Protection Act.'
'Hate crimes' law definitions would protect 547 sex 'philias'." The term "philias"
apparently refers to paraphilias -- or sexually deviant behaviors -- many of
them criminal acts -- like pedophilia, incest, necrophelia, etc. The article quoted
Janet Porter, head of Faith2Action, a conservative Christian ministry
"Pushing away an unwelcome
advance of a homosexual, transgender, cross-dresser or exhibitionist could
make you a felon under this law. Speaking out against the homosexual agenda
could also make you a felon if you are said to influence someone who pushes
away that unwelcome advance. And pedophiles and other sexual deviants would
enjoy an elevated level of protection while children, seniors, veterans, and
churches would not." 14
A Google search on 2009-MAY-05 using the search
string: pedophile hate-crime federal 1913 produced
"about 4,840" hits! This misinformation is being disseminated very widely on the
It would seem that these information sources are taking a horrendous
risk to their credibility by linking the hate crime bill's mention of the three
sexual orientation -- heterosexual, bisexual and homosexual feelings of
attraction to a list
of dozens of paraphilias -- deviant and sometimes criminal behaviors that are unrelated to sexual orientation.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.