Thursday, October 8, 2009

Hate Crime Protection For Gays Back-Doored Via H.R. 2647, 281-146; Utah's Rob Bishop And Jason Chaffetz Vote No, Jim Matheson Votes Yes

On October 8th, 2009, H.R. 2647, which backdoors hate crime protection for gays under the protective cover of a defense authorization bill, passed 281-146. Utah's House delegation split their vote; Republicans Rob Bishop and Jason Chaffetz voted No, while Democrat Jim Matheson voted Yes. View the roll call vote HERE. Media stories from the Deseret News, the Washington Times, and McClatchyDC.

The vote split nearly along party lines. Of the 281 Yes votes, 237 were cast by Democrats and 44 by Republicans, while of the 146 No votes, 131 were cast by Republicans and 15 by Democrats. The measure was attached to a must-pass $680 billion defense policy bill, described in greater detail HERE, and Barack Obama is a strong supporter. So if it passes muster in the U.S. Senate, it likely will become law.

Rep. Chaffetz issued the following statement after the vote:

“This is the first time we have brought such blatant partisan politics into the annual defense policy bill. Regardless of anyone’s position on hate crimes legislation, the defense bill should not be a vehicle for liberal social policies that are unrelated to our country’s national security. I Love our troops but I cannot support hate crimes legislation.”


Rep. Bishop posted a lengthier response on his official website. In part, he wrote:

“I have always been an ardent supporter of efforts to strengthen our national defense and provide resources and equipment for our troops,” Congressman Bishop said. “And I was proud to support the earlier version of the House bill, which wasn’t perfect but was a bi-partisan product that would have helped our Armed Forces. While I am a supporter of a strong national defense, and have voted previously in support of critical defense funding for our troops, I am saddened that the Senate and the Democratic majority have maneuvered to sneak in a highly-controversial, unrelated federal hate crimes expansion into the defense authorization bill. This politicization of the defense bill, arguably one of the most important and critical pieces of legislation we will pass this year, is simply unacceptable.”


Rep. Matheson has yet to post any official reaction on his part.

What the bill does:

-- Extends Federal hate crime protection to gays, transgenders, and members of the Armed Forces
-- Provides federal grants to help with the prosecuting of hate crimes and funds programs to combat hate crimes committed by juveniles.
-- Allows the Federal government to step in after the Justice Department certifies that a state is unwilling or unable to follow through on a purported hate crime.

What the bill does not do:

-- Does not prevent pastors or other citizens from expressing objection to homosexuality

Read the full text of the hate crimes portion of H.R. 2647 HERE.

The hate crime bill was deliberately piggybacked on a defense authorization bill to better ensure its passage, with proponents betting that lawmakers would not want to vote No and be seen as "weak" on defense. But many Republicans, normally stalwart supporters of defense bills, voted against it because of the addition of what they referred to as "thought crimes" legislation. "This is radical social policy that is being put on the defense authorization bill, on the backs of our soldiers, because they probably can't pass it on its own," House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio said. Many GOP lawmakers were not reassured by late changes in the bill to strengthen protections for religious speech and association — critics argued that pastors expressing beliefs about homosexuality could be prosecuted if their sermons were connected to later acts of violence against gays.

But supporters countered that prosecutions could occur only when bodily injury is involved, and no minister or protester could be targeted for expressing opposition to homosexuality. Supporters also cite FBI statistics which allegedly show that there are some 8,000 hate crimes reported around the country in a year. More than half of those are motivated by racial bias. Next most frequent are crimes based on religious bias at around 18 percent and sexual orientation at 16 percent.

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