U.S. hate crime laws
A timeline of legislative
1999-MAR-16: Bill S. 622 was introduced to the Senate under the sponsorship of Senator Ted Kennedy (D, MA), 39 other Democrats and 5 Republicans. 1,2
The principal changes to the existing 1969 law would be:
The scope of the law would include:
The bill was read twice and referred to Committee on Judiciary. On
1999-MAR-24, it was referred to Subcommittee on Constitution, Federalism,
Property. No further no action was taken.
1999-JUL-21: Bill S. 1406 was introduced by Orrin Hatch (R, UT). It would provide for:
The bill was referred to the Committee on Judiciary
on 1999-JUL-21. No further action was taken.
2000-MAY-12: Bill S. 2549 was introduced. It is a major piece of legislation to fund the Department of Defense during 2001. On JUN-19, Senator Levin introduced a hate crime amendment SA 3473 on behalf of Senator Kennedy. It had 19 cosponsors. One day later, the amendment was passed, without debate, by a vote of 57 to 42.
2004-JUN-15: S.Amdt 3183: The Senate again
passed an amendment to the current Defense bill, S. 2400 which will provide
funding to the Armed Forces during fiscal year 2005. The bill was called
the Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Act (LLEEA).
The bill's main sponsors were Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA) and Senator Gordon Smith (R-OR) This is the third time that the Senate has passed the bill. On both previous occasions, the House either defeated a similar measure or stripped the amendment during the conference committee. 5,6
Social and religious conservatives generally oppose the bill. Many ignore the protections that the bill would give to women, men, the disabled, and heterosexuals. They appear to be concerned almost exclusively with protections given to persons of one sexual orientation: homosexuals. A main concern is that a clergyperson, or other person, who verbally attacks gays, lesbians, or bisexuals might be charged under the act if any violent or criminal act resulted from the speech. This appears to be a misinterpretation of the bill, because it could only be applied to a person who has actually committed a violent crime. Speeches attacking gays and lesbians are not a criminal behavior; they protected speech under the First Amendment.
2004-JUN-15: S.Amdt 3183 (Cont'd):
Some comments on the Senate bill:
Senator Gordon Smith, a co-supporter of the bill, said that the debate was far more civil and respectful than it has been for in previous years. He said: "The atmosphere of the debate was dramatically improved this year. In other debates, the arguments would be laced with homophobic commentary and misrepresentations of what the bill would do."
Olga Vives, vice-president in charge of action for the National Organization for Women congratulated the Senate, but criticized the bill because it does not also include protection for transgender persons. She said: "We know that transgender persons are more often the target of bias-motivated violent crime than other groups, yet the senators refused to add clear protections for this vulnerable population." 5
She apparently meant that the per-capita rate of violent crime is very high for transsexuals and transgender persons, rather than the absolute numbers were very high.
David Duke, leader of the European-American Unity and Rights Organization whose web site is www.WhiteCivilRights.com, wrote:
"S625 will create a federal 'anti-hate' bureaucracy, empowering the government to establish its definition of a 'hate crime' - one which gives favored status to homosexuals and minority groups. S625 also enhances penalties for 'hate crimes,' providing up to ten years prison for those who physically harm a member of a protected groups. This bill imposes federal hate laws on the states, meddles with states' enforcement of them, and punishes states that lag behind the federal hate crime agenda." 6
Cathie Adams, president of Texas Eagle Forum, strongly opposed the amendment. She said it is "against traditional values." 7 Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council said that the bill: "...could very easily be used against pastors who preach against same-sex 'marriage'. It is now up to House conferees to ensure that... churches are allowed to follow their beliefs and not be silenced." He does not explain how churches, which are guaranteed freedom of speech under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution could be charged with a crime. 8
In a similar vein, the Massachusetts Family Institute writes: "If this 'hate crime' legislation were to become law, it would be used against individuals and churches that speak out on issues such as defending marriage and religious liberty." 9
The bill passed the Senate. On 2004-SEP-28, the House of Representatives passed a "motion to instruct" by a vote of 213 to 186. The motion recommends that the hate-crime text be retained when a joint House - Senate conference committee resolves differences between the House version of the Defense bill (which does not include hate-crime wording) and Senate version (which does include such wording). Majorities in both the Senate and House have thus indicated their support for the inclusion of the hate-crime provision. But the members of the committee are chosen by their party leaders and are not necessarily selected to reflect the opinions of the House and Senate. The hate-crime provision was deleted by the conference committee as in previous years.
According to Reuters:
"It's reprehensible that the GOP House leadership demanded the removal of the hate crimes language," Sen. Edward Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat, said in a statement. ...Backers of the hate crimes legislation, a top priority for gay rights and disabled advocacy groups, have been trying to enact it since at least 1998, when the gaps in existing law were highlighted by two heinous crimes -- the dragging death of a black man named James Byrd in Texas and the fatal beating of a young gay man named Matthew Shepard in Wyoming. In addition to including protections for gays and the disabled, the legislation would also modernize and streamline earlier hate crime legislation enacted after the 1968 murder of Martin Luther King Jr. The goal is to make it easier to prosecute such crimes. Kennedy said the extra protections also were needed because of 'the shameful increase' in the number of hate crimes against Arabs and Muslims since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Opponents of the legislation contend hate crimes were better dealt with on a local instead of a federal level, and that the measure would improperly create a special category of victims." 10
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
Copyright © 1999 to 2009 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Latest update: 2009-JUN-28
Author: B.A. Robinson
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