Senate bill S. 909. Obama veto possible.
Double Jeopardy concern. Media coverage
Is a presidential veto possible?
Rather than being presented as a stand-alone bill, Senator Majority Leader
Harry Reid (D-NV) added it as an amendment to the annual
Authorization Bill in the hopes of easing its passage. This is a common ploy
used by both whichever party -- Democrats or Republicans -- is in power, much to
the objection of the minority party.
John McCain (R-AZ) criticized Reid's maneuver as an "abuse of power."
"Those of us who oppose this legislation - and it is important
legislation - , in my view, the United States of America and its judicial system and a
bill defending the nation." 1
The decision to add the bill as an amendment could conceivably result in a presidential
veto. President Obama has threatened to veto the Defense Department's budget
bill if it continues to include more funding for the F-22 fighter program.
However, with such solid support in the House, Senate, and by the President, the
eventual passage of the hate-crimes legislation appears likely.
Double jeopardy concerns:
In 2009-JUN, the Federal Civil Rights Commission objected to the
proposed bill because it might result in a citizen being prosecuted twice for
the same violent hate crime: first by his/her state government, and then by the federal
The commissioners sent a letter to Senate leaders stating that:
"We believe that MSHCPA will do little good and a great deal of harm. ...
Its most important effect will be to allow federal authorities to re-prosecute
a broad category of defendants who have already been acquitted by state juries
-- as in the Rodney King and Crown Heights cases more than a decade ago."
Coverage in the media and by concerned groups:
According to GovTrack.US, S. 909 is supported by civil rights groups like the
Matthew Shepard Foundation, Human Rights Campaign,
Log Cabin Republicans, Anti-Defamation League and American-Arab Anti-Discrimination.
It is opposed by conservative religious groups like Focus on the Family.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) criticized the
Senate version of the bill because it lacked the stronger speech and association
protections contained in the corresponding House Bill HB 1913. Christopher Anders, ACLU Senior
Legislative Counsel said:
"It has been our experience that the fight for better and stronger civil
rights protections is more successful when free speech and association are
protected along the way. Fierce protection of free speech rights has
historically created the space for the improvement of civil rights
protections. Unless amended to block evidence of speech and association not
specifically related to a crime, the Senate hate crimes amendment could chill
constitutionally protected speech and association. An otherwise unremarkable
violent crime should not become a federal hate crime simply because the
defendant visited the wrong website, belonged to a group espousing bigotry, or
subscribed to a magazine promoting discriminatory views, however wrong and
repugnant those beliefs may be. We urge Congress to instead adopt the House
version of the hate crimes bill, which protects both civil rights and free
speech and association." 3
House Bill H.R. 1913 contains sections that
"Nothing in this Act shall be construed to allow prosecution based solely
upon an individual's expression of racial, religious, political, or other
beliefs or solely upon an individual's membership in a group advocating or
espousing such beliefs." and
"... evidence of expression or associations of the defendant may not be
introduced as substantive evidence at trial. ... unless the evidence
specifically relates to that offense."
Family Research Council, a fundamentalist Christian group, produced a
You Tube video in 2009-JUL. It features representatives Mike
Pence (R-IN) and Jim DeMint (R-SC), along with Bishop Harry Jackson. This is a very scary video. Unfortunately,
none of the speakers mentioned the protection of hate speech guaranteed by the
First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution which is the exact opposite of laws
prohibiting hate speech as found in many other countries.
Viewers rated the video 2 out of 5 stars, one of the lowest
ratings that we have seen on You Tube. They left 123
comments, as of 2009-JUL-18. 4