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U.S. hate crime bills/laws

Hate-crimes bill H.R. 1913: (2009):
House committee activity. Flaw in wording

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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 vote.

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

A potentially fatal flaw in HR 1913:

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."

For example:

bulletThe 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
bulletThe 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.

bulletAbout 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 be dangerous.
 
bulletSexual orientation: On 2009-APR-23, Representative Steve King (R-IA) said that "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" are vague terms that need precise definition. He said:

"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:

bulletThose only attracted to members of the opposite sex are heterosexuals;
bulletThose only attracted to members of the same sex are homosexuals;
bulletThose 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:

bulletThe three generally accepted sexual orientations (heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality);
bulletArbitrarily added a few behaviors, such as incest and prostitution;
bulletAnd 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.

Finally, they tossed transsexuality into the mix .

More information.

The end result was that:

bulletA few fundamentalist and other evangelical groups assert that there are over 30 sexual orientations -- some of them criminal acts.
bulletThe 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:

bulletTony 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


bulletJennifer 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

bulletThe 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? 12


bulletAn 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


bulletWorldNetDaily, 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 as saying:

"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 Internet.

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.

References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Text of H.R. 1913: Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009," GovTrack.us, at: http://www.govtrack.us/
  2. John Eggerton, "Obama Speaks In Support Of Hate Crimes Legislation. Is expected to be considered by the House this week," Broadcast Newsroom, 2009-APR-29, at: http://acquisition.broadcastnewsroom.com/
  3. "Section 16: Crime of violence defined," FindLaw, at: http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/
  4. Paraphrasing as cited in "Anti-Asian Bias," Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, at: http://www.aaldef.org/bias.php
  5. "Disability," Wiktionary, at: http://en.wiktionary.org/
  6. Rev. Lou Sheldon, "What is a 'Sexual Orientation'," News release, Traditional Values Coalition, 2007-JUN-04.
  7. "What is a 'Sexual Orientation'," Special report, Traditional Values Coalition, undated, at: http://www.traditionalvalues.org/
  8. "What is a 'Sexual Orientation'?" American Family Association, undated, at: http://www.afa.net/
  9. "Paraphilia," Wikipedia, downloaded 2009-APR-29 from: http://en.wikipedia.org/
  10. Tony Perkins, "Washington Update: Facts - What Homosexuals Hate," Family Research Council, 2009-APR-30, at: http://www.frc.org/
  11. Jennifer Kennedy Cassidy, "Please Call Now to Urge "No" Vote on Dangerous Hate Crime Bill," Coral Ridge Ministries Email Campaign, 2009-APR-28, at: http://www.coralridge.org/
  12. "Democrats Choose to Protect Only Homosexuals: Leave Pregnant Women, the Elderly, and Veterans Out in the Cold," Concerned Women for America, 2009-APR-23, at: http://www.cwalac.org/
  13. Rev. Ted Pike, "HR 1913 - Demand Yes Or No On Pedophile-Protecting Hate Bill," Sitfu.com Worldwide, 2009-APR-27, at: http://sitfu.blogspot.com/
  14. Bob Unruh, "Next on Senate agenda? 'Pedophile Protection Act'; 'Hate crimes' law definitions would protect 547 sex 'philias'," WorldNetDaily, 2009-MAY-04, at: http://www.worldnetdaily.com/

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Copyright © 2009 & 2010 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
First posted: 2009-APR-29
Latest update: 2010-MAY-29
Author: B.A. Robinson

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