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U.S. hate crime laws 

A timeline of legislative
activity in the federal
House

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Hate crime bills in the federal House:

bullet1999 Activity: On MAR-11, House bill HR 1082, the Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 1999, was introduced. Its text was very similar to Senate bill S. 622. It was referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary on MAR-11, and to the Subcommittee on Crime on APR-1. No further action was taken.
 
bullet2000 Activity: On 2000-SEP-13, the House easily passed a non-binding resolution. It asked the conference committee for the Department of Defense Authorization Bill to incorporate the hate crimes legislation in that bill that had been passed as an amendment by the Senate earlier that year by a vote of 57 to 42. That amendment would have added disability, gender, and sexual orientation  as protected classes to an existing civil rights law which already protects people on the basis of their  color, national origin, race, and religion. The vote was 232 to 192. 41 Republicans joined 190 Democrats support of the resolution; 174 Republicans and 17 Democrats were in opposition. The two independents were evenly split. 5 Republicans and 4 Democrats did not vote. In order to become law, the conference committee, which is appointed to reconcile differences between the House and Senate versions of the authorization bill, had to agree to include the hate crimes language which was already in the Senate version. Then both the House and the Senate would have had to approve the final version of the authorization bill. 

On 2000-SEP-14, Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, executive director of The Interfaith Alliance, a liberal religious group, issued a statement:

"I applaud the U.S. House of Representatives for passing hate crimes legislation. Neither hate nor violence is a traditional American value, both are abominations to democracy and spirituality."

"Despite the ludicrous efforts of the religious right to defeat HCPA through the manipulation of religion and scripture, their exclusionary agenda did not prevail. The sacred scriptures of many different religious traditions speak with dramatic unanimity on this matter of hate. When true to the prophetic core of our various religions, we cannot condemn hate and then refuse to act to stop hate and the violence that hate foments upon us. Religion and government can work together to create a society in which diverse people are safe as well as free."

"...We in the inter-religious community will continue to promote the primal moral values that nurture respect for the dignity and worth of every person and thus expose and seek to eradicate hatred as a malignancy of the mind and spirit. While it is true that legislation cannot remove hate from the hearts and minds of individuals, we learned a long time ago that legislation, like hate crimes legislation, can help to create a society in which people are influenced by their government's unbending intolerance of prejudice-based, hate-motivated violence..." 

Winnie Stachelberg, is a spokesperson with the Human Rights Campaign --- a group promoting equal rights for gays and lesbians. She regards the bill as a simple but vital piece of legislation: "It would just level the playing field. It would close a very big loophole that sexual orientation, gender and disability are not part of current law." 1

Pete Winn is an editor at Focus on the Family -- a fundamentalist Christian organization centered in Colorado Springs, CO. On 2000-SEP-15, he posted an essay on the House resolution . 2 Although the resolution, if implemented, would offer protection to bisexuals, disabled persons, gays, heterosexuals, lesbians, men, and women, he focused totally on the the gay/lesbian issue to the total exclusion of the other groups. He quoted two conservatives:

bulletAndrea Lafferty, spokesperson for the Traditional Values Coalition, said

"The 232-192 vote was made possible by an alliance of so-called 'moderate' Republicans and radical liberals who are pandering to the political agenda of the homosexual movement and their allies who have recently attacked Boy Scouts...This vote was not about 'hate.' It was about anti-Christian bigotry and providing federal protection to homosexuals under the guise of protecting individuals from so-called 'gender discrimination.' "

The Coalition expects to inform 43,000 churches about how their representative voted on the resolution.

bulletRobert George, a professor at Princeton University, said:

"It is extremely unwise to include the category of sexual orientation in hate-crimes legislation. This elevates sexual behavior and certain predispositions to immoral sexual behavior to the status of a civil-rights category. The message that that sends is a very bad one." 3

Although the bill won the "support of a broad, bi-partisan majority in both chambers of Congress, the President, and 175 law enforcement, religious, civic, and civil rights groups," it was stripped from the Department of Defense Authorization Bill on 2000-OCT-5 by a vote of 11 to 9. Sen. John Warner, (R-VA) chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he was concerned the controversial measure would doom the defense bill to a filibuster in the dying days of the session. President Clinton said:

"...the Republican leadership made a serious mistake by stripping the hate crimes legislation from the Department of Defense Authorization bill, despite strong bipartisan support in both the House and Senate. The Republican leaders have turned their backs on legislation designed to send the message that all persons should be treated the same under the law -- no matter what their race, color, religion, sex, national origin, sexual orientation, or disability."

Senate Democrats considered making a motion to consider a separate hate crimes bill. They considered trying every procedural move possible, doing "whatever we can" to get votes to allow them to "put pressure on our Republican colleagues to do the right thing." While advocates say they will keep working to get a stand-alone bill through Congress or get the provision added to another bill, they admit that the defense bill was their best chance. 3

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bullet2001 Activity: History repeated; the Senate attached a hate-crimes bill as an amendment to a local law-enforcement act -- a bill that had wide popular support. Chuck MiVille, a correspondent for Focus on the Family wrote:

"It's a bill that politicians hate to fight because it makes them look bigoted. Bind it to an anti-crime bill and it gets even tougher. But that is the situation that senators face, now that a hate-crimes bill has been introduced into the Senate, and Democratic Majority Leader Tom Daschle has indicated he will make passage a priority."

"Proponents of hate-crimes legislation admit that, if passed, such a bill would treat people differently under the same law. David Smith, of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest gay advocacy group, can justify that disparity because he believes hate violence is rampant."

"Yes, everybody should be treated the same, but when hate and violence occurs and targets entire communities of people, local law enforcement is provided with extra challenges as this simply will provide for them extra resources," Smith said.

MiVille states that hate crimes are relatively rare, and that hate crimes legislation will "only politicize an already volatile issue." However, one study indicates that 41% of adult gays have already been the victim of gay bashing. MiVille quotes Michael Johnston of Jerusso Ministries who said that if you poll the public whether gays and lesbians should received additional special protection under a hate-crimes law, "the vast majority...will say absolutely not; that's unequal justice under law." This seems to be a confused response, because homosexuals would gain exactly the same protection against assaults as would heterosexuals and bisexuals. Persons of all sexual orientations would be protected by the bill.

The bill never made it into law.

bullet2005 activity: An amendment was launched to add a hate-crime provision to HR-3132, "The Children's Safety Act." It passed the House by a vote of 223 to 199. The bill would improve methods of tracking sex offenders. It would also give increased protection to representatives of a number of minorities who have been determined to be victims of hate crimes. However, much of the media attention was focused on its inclusion of sexual orientation as a protected class. Also, although this protects homosexuals, bisexuals and homosexuals equally, much interest was concentrated on the benefit to persons with a homosexual orientation.

Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council (FRC) stated:

"Criminalizing thoughts as well as actions, and creating special categories of victims, are contrary to our entire system of laws. Furthermore, granting special protections based on one's 'sexual orientation' has repeatedly been rejected by Congress. It is shocking that a bill designed to protect children from sexual predators is now being used to protect the sexual preference of homosexuals. The Senate should reject the House's attempt to advance the political agenda of homosexuals at the expense of children."

The FRC claims that the measure was passed by "stealth," because much Congressional attention at the time was focusing on the confirmation of Judge John Roberts as Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. 4 The bill was never made into law. The bill was later introduced in late 2005 without the "Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention" amendment.

bullet2007 activity: Representatives John Conyers (D-MI) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) introduced H.R. 1592, the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2007 (LLEHCPA). 5 As for previous unsuccessful bills. it would have updated the federal hate crimes act of 1968 which applied to only those hate crimes motivated by racism, or hatred of a victim's ethnicity, national origin or religion. LLEHCRA would expand coverage to include crimes in which the perpetrator was motivated by hatred of the victim's  sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or disability. More details.
 
bullet2009 activity: LLEJCPA has again been reintroduced to the federal House where it passed and was sent to the Senate. More details.

References used:

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

  1. Martha Kleder, "Constitutional implications of hate crimes," Focus on the Family at: http://www.family.org/
  2. Pete Winn, "Punishing hate...or family values?," Focus on the Family, at: http://www.family.org/
  3. Various quotations taken from the United Against Hate web site at: http://www.unitedagainsthate.org/
  4. "FRC Denounces Stealth Passage of 'Hate Crimes' Legislation," Family Research Council, 2005-SEP-14, at: http://www.frc.org/
  5. "H.R. 1592," text, at: http://thomas.loc.gov/

Copyright © 1999 to 2009 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2009-JUN-28
Author: B.A. Robinson

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