House Votes to Expand Hate Crimes to Include Sexual Orientation

The Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act was passed by the House today as an attachment to a Department of Defense appropriations bill:

Shepard "Democrats and advocates hailed the 281-to-146 vote, which put the measure on the brink of becoming law, as the culmination of a long push to curb violent expressions of bias like the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard, a gay Wyoming college student.' Left unchecked, crimes of this kind threaten to ruin the very fabric of America,' said Representative Susan Davis, Democrat of California. The hate-crimes measure was approved as part of a broad $681 billion Pentagon policy measure, a strategy that infuriated House Republicans who accused Democrats of employing a form of legislative blackmail. Most Democrats voted for the measure, as did more than 40 Republicans."

The Senate is expected to vote on the measure early next week, after which it will head to Obama for his signature.

Said Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) in a statement: "This measure is long overdue and I am pleased that Congress has voted to do what’s right. Martin Luther King, Jr. often said that ‘the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.’  We see that beautifully illustrated here today."

Watch a video response from Baldwin, AFTER THE JUMP...

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  1. Sorry if I missed something, but is this the bill with the F-22 funding that Obama said he would veto?

    Posted by: Tony | Oct 8, 2009 7:38:44 PM

  2. Tony: Yes, it is the same bill. However the F-22 funding has since been removed.

    Posted by: mcc | Oct 8, 2009 7:50:17 PM

  3. Though some Republicans apparently still want to defend their right to hate.
    Like Mike Pence: “It is just simply wrong to use a bill designed to support our troops to reverse the very freedoms for which they fight."
    So they're fighting in Iraq to defend the freedom to bash gay people?

    Posted by: KevinVT | Oct 8, 2009 7:56:13 PM

  4. Those poor christians, who will they pick on now?

    Are the disabled protected at all? You know Christians just LOVE an enemy that can't fight back.

    Posted by: Grimmlok | Oct 8, 2009 8:15:33 PM

  5. "Though some Republicans apparently still want to defend their right to hate."

    I know I will be "hated" for this, but it is every American's right to hate anyone they wish. That doesn't mean that any American has the right to commit a crime against another. The whole problem I have with "hate crime legislation" is how can a crime against my father where he is robbed and beaten because he is an white guy in his 60s have possible less punishment than someone who commits the same crime against me being a gay white guy in his 30s because I am gay.

    Posted by: JB | Oct 8, 2009 9:11:31 PM

  6. Grimmlok, Bellevue is calling.

    Posted by: Let'sFaceIt | Oct 8, 2009 9:33:41 PM

  7. JB, I'm basically for Hate Crime Legislation, but I understand your point. It's one of the reasons why the subject is infinitely debatable.

    Posted by: Let'sFaceIt | Oct 8, 2009 9:37:02 PM

  8. Because, JB, the crime committed against your father is localized to him. Hate crimes target entire communities. Not only is the victim terrorized, but so is the "group" he belongs to. The psychological impact on the victim of a hate crime is greater too. Being attacked for something that is innate is usually a very emotionally devastating experience.

    There's also the fact that local law enforcement not be as quick to help or investigate a crime committed against a person because of the certain "group" they belong to. Laws like the Matthew Shepard Act will help federal agencies step in where local help is lacking, because of perceived (or not) discrimination.

    They also act like a deterrent. You can practice all the hate speech you want, but once the speech crosses over into violent action, you will be held accountable.

    Posted by: Leonard Jones | Oct 8, 2009 9:49:40 PM

  9. JB,

    Hate crime legislation isn't just about making crimes carry extra punishment if they were done out of bigotry toward a certain community. They also help ensure that communities across the country who may not care about the gay-bashed victim have to follow up on those crimes, or risk federal intervention.

    That said, even if we dumb down the issue, it's still warranted. Why? Hate crimes protections already exist -- this is just putting our community on an equal footing. Furthermore, hate crimes toward a specific community simply because someone belonged to that community is meant to drive fear into the entire community. That's it's purpose. Therefore, there *should* be more effort into solving those crimes and stiffer penalties when those crimes are committed.

    Posted by: Ryan | Oct 8, 2009 9:58:32 PM

  10. Next week, when this gets signed, I assume all the bitching and moaning about Obama only paying lip service to the LGBT community will end. Right?

    And then in another month, when ENDA has passed, I assume everyone will begin to rally around Obama as an ally to our cause. Correct?

    And then early next year, when DADT is eliminated, I assume we will rightfully view him again as a forceful ally, thats achieved far more for queer equality than any other president in history. Yeah?

    Oh, wait. The Clinton bots and log cabin nuts will still be lurking, wont they? John Aravosis, Leland/Michael@, and their ilk will still be running around claiming that he was forced to act by congress and that he's working behind the scenes to secretly destroy us.

    God forbid, you've actually been wrong this entire time, and that he's actually as strong a friend to the queer community as he has repeatedly stated he is.

    Since I've been accused of being a gay uncle tom for defending him, do I get a special prize when the impatient Obama-haters realize I was right all along?

    Posted by: Aaron Rowland | Oct 8, 2009 10:03:03 PM

  11. Thanks for all that, Leonard Jones and Ryan. Those are all good points.

    Posted by: Let'sFaceIt | Oct 8, 2009 10:13:00 PM

  12. JB,

    Your understanding of hate crimes laws is fundamentally flawed. Hate crimes laws raise penalties for violent crime based on protected CATEGORIES NOT protected GROUPS.

    Under the new law, your straight, white, 60-something father will have all the same protections that you, his gay, white, 30-something son. If your father is attacked because he is white or straight, he will enjoy the same legal recourse as you would if you were attacked because you are white or gay. (BTW, interestingly, age is not a protected category in either existing or the proposed federal law.)

    Do not be taken in by Republicunt spin about "thought crimes" or special rights. Hate crimes laws protect all citizens equally.

    Posted by: 24play | Oct 8, 2009 10:36:03 PM

  13. JB and Let's Face It --

    JB's claim is entirely incorrect. If his father in his 60s was attacked because he is white, this WOULD be a hate crime. In fact it is covered by the act passed in 1969 (which among other things, applies to crimes based on race/color). Since in your description, he was attacked because he was white, this would constitute a hate crime. Similarly, if the legislation passed by the House becomes law, it would also be a hate crime if your father was attacked for being hetero. These statutes do NOT specify that the victim must be a member of a minority group. Since everyone (presumably) has a race/national origin/sexual orientation -- these laws would protect them as well. This is why I cringe when I hear people refer to such legislation as "special rights" for gay people since everyone would be protected by such a statute. Really such an assertion is merely saying "As a member of the majority group, I really don't have to be worried about crimes motivated by my majority group status, so I find the right worthless to me." Or perhaps its just a misunderstanding fueled by right wing talking points.

    Hope this clarifies.

    Posted by: kj | Oct 8, 2009 10:37:01 PM

  14. Thanks 24PLAY, it's like you read my mind.

    Posted by: kj | Oct 8, 2009 10:40:55 PM

  15. Those who claim hate crimes are about individual rights seem to lack a basic understanding in criminal law. First Amendment cases - speech, religion, assembly, etc. - are almost always decided through civil lawsuits where the rules are quite different. Even conservative Justices Rehnquist and Scalia pointed to this difference when the Supreme Court unaiminously upheld hate crimes legislation as constitutional.

    Only civil actions involve individuals. Criminal acts are committed against the state rather than the victim. It is society itself that serves as the accusatory agent. This has always been the case. Some sample prefaces for criminal indictments:

    "The United States charges"

    "The People of the State of California hereby accuses"

    "The Commonwealth of Massachusetts do alleges"

    "Her Majesty the Queen charges"

    What this means is the defendant doing harm to his victim is purely incidental. It is the harm he or she has done to the community at-large that matters. This is an important distinction because the concept of victimhood is an invention of the 20th century. For centuries, the law was specifically designed to protect sovereignty to the exclusion of individuals.

    The state doesn't punish criminals to protect *you.* It punishes criminals to protect *society.*

    Posted by: John | Oct 8, 2009 11:06:31 PM

  16. It's about damn time and the senate better pass this the next chance it gets. I'm sick of waiting. I was a victim of a hate crime over a year ago and there's no protection in the state of Indiana.

    Posted by: KFLO | Oct 8, 2009 11:22:37 PM

  17. Hate Crime Laws protect your father if someone is looking to kill some gay, any gay and decides that your father is an old queen and beats him bloody and leaves him to die.

    There are thousands of laws that set specific penalties for specific motives: If your father is killed by your mother in a premeditated act of passion, there is one set of penalties. If he is killed by a motorist in a car accident there is one set of penalties for vehicular homicide and another for vehicular manslaughter.

    There are hate-crime laws on the books that protect your father if he is murdered because he is (or is thought to be) black, Jewish, Asian or disabled. If your father is killed because he is black by someone yelling "I hate all n*****s!" then that is a hate crime and there are specific penalties.

    But until this law is signed, there are no specific penalties for your father's murderer when the killer kills him, yelling "I hate all faggots, like YOU, you old queen!"

    Hate-crime legislation doesn't make thought a crime. It simply enumerates specific penalties for specific motives, like thousands of other such laws on the books.

    Only this one finally recognizes the rampant crimes committed against men and women who may or may not be gay, simply because they are perceived to be gay.

    Like your dad.

    Posted by: JeffNYC | Oct 8, 2009 11:28:11 PM

  18. When this does become a law, I won't be able to stop picturing Judy Shepard kicking Fred Phelps in the face.

    When she was answering questions about her new book in NYC, someone thanked her and said that there weren't a lot of people in the room who could say that their parent would do everything that Judy has done and been so openly supportive of their kid. Judy said that it wasn't where she thought her life would lead "but, you don't fuck with somebody's mom."

    Posted by: NormalAdjacent | Oct 9, 2009 12:02:10 AM

  19. The bill t hat passed the Senate had the 'poison pill' amendment stating that people could get the death penalty for hate crimes. i'm all for hate crimes laws, but I am of course against them rating the death penalty. I think the plan was that this part would be removed in the House/Senate conference. Does anyone know for sure one way or another whether the version that came out of conference, and was passed today by the House, had this poison pill removed, or was it maintained?

    Posted by: Mike | Oct 9, 2009 12:28:05 AM

  20. Mike: From :

    "The Defense Authorization conference report removed a provision adopted in the Senate which would make the death penalty available for hate crimes."

    If you want to read the whole bill yourself (you probably don't) the final version is here: and the hate crimes portion starts on page 1471.

    Posted by: mcc | Oct 9, 2009 1:03:52 AM

  21. What is missing from this and similar articles is how the brave Dennis Kucinich voted no becuase he remains against war and the prison industrial complex. This law will do nothing to actually prevent hate crimes, it will just put people behind bars longer. Really, enough studies have shown what good that does. Kucinich is one of our most fierce allies and continues to be.

    Posted by: Mark Snyder | Oct 9, 2009 1:51:18 AM

  22. Using that "logic," one could argue that we should abolish murder laws.

    They clearly haven't prevented murders.

    Some people have a slavish devotion to ideological purity. That's true on the right and the left. Although I might agree with Kucinich more often than I do the FOX News gang, he is one of those persons. The congressman doesn't believe in situational ethics. He is an ardent pacifist and always have been.

    Of course. he has the right to believe what he wishes. But he is pretty extreme. Kucinich won't even compromise his pacifist philosophy to get Osama Bin Laden. He has said on numerous occasions that he doesn't think it'll do us any good to go after the Al Qaeda leader because it only encourages more violence.

    Most of the Democrats - including Barney Frank and Nancy Pelosi - headed straight for the exit door when he said that. And if I were in their shoes, I would have too. Not only are such statements politically foolhardy in a country where military service is revered, they're also incredibly naive.

    Posted by: John | Oct 9, 2009 2:55:58 AM

  23. maybe, one day, we'll have that in Romania, too. hope so

    Posted by: rasvan | Oct 9, 2009 3:43:03 AM

  24. there is a fundamental difference between democrats and republicans. for anyone to say differently is the height of ignorance. since i was legal to vote, i have voted dem. and, i will vote dem till the day i die.

    Posted by: nic | Oct 9, 2009 4:04:48 AM

  25. It is up to the Senate now otherwise the bill will die, then we will have to start over. Now the Democrats have a majority; I can safely say the bill will pass unless there is something unforeseen.

    Posted by: Jeff Dunivant | Oct 9, 2009 5:55:41 AM

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