Thursday, May 03, 2007

House Passes Federal Hate Crimes Legislation

The U.S. House of Representatives just minutes ago passed the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act by a 237-180 vote with the help of 25 Republicans. Not surprisingly, none of those Republican votes came from Indiana's congressional delegation. Disappointing, though, is the votes of freshmen members Rep. Joe Donnelly (D) and Rep. Brad Ellsworth (D) against the hate crimes legislation. They made up two of the 14 Democratic votes cast against the legislation.

Rep. Baron Hill (D), Rep. Julia Carson (D) and Rep. Pete Visclosky were the only members of Indiana's congressional delegation who supported the legislation. I would note that the brutal hate crime killing of Aaron Hall in Crothersville last month took place not far from Hill's hometown of Seymour, although Hill had previously expressed support for the legislation.

Rep. Dan Burton (R), Rep. Mike Pence (R), Rep. Steve Buyer (R) and Rep. Mark Souder (R) all voted against the legislation. Rep. Mike Pence was one of several lawmakers who penned an absurd letter to President Bush urging his veto of the legisation. Spouting the ridiculous claims of the American Family Association and other homobigoted groups, Pence claims the legislation will interfere with a person's freedom of speech. Pence goes further off track, suggesting ministers preaching against homosexuality will be prosecuted. He writes, "Further, religious leaders promoting traditional morality could be made subject to compulsory legal processes - and forced into court - simply because their religious teachings may have been misconstrued by a deranged criminal, particularly as prosecutors blur the line between what constitutes a "hate crime" and what they deem as hate speech."

Groups like the American Family Association primarily oppose any hate crimes legislation because it includes language covering "sexual orientation" and "gender identity". At least that is the focus of their attacks in opposing the legislation. They claim it confers "special rights" for "homosexuals" and "cross-dressers" by enhancing criminal penalties committed by an offender because of a person's sexual orientation or gender identity. The federal legislation also covers race, color, religion, national origin, gender and disability, a point often omitted by the opponents.

Redstate Blog is reporting that President Bush's legal advisors are warning him the legislation is "constitutionally suspect", and that they will recommend he veto the legislation. It looks like the Bush White House is determined to keep Bush's approval rating down in the low 30s the remainder of his term.


Anonymous said...

Good and bad news.

Shame on the freshman Democrats! Great that the house passed it regardless of the freshman dems pandering to their conservative base. I know for a fact that GLBT worked to help get Donnelly elected. What a slap in the face. Very disappointing indeed.

However, Bush will surely veto this legislation. His administration is advising him to:,0,3438099.story?coll=la-home-headlines

Anonymous said...

"President Bush's legal advisors are warning him the legislation is "constitutionally suspect", and that they will recommend he veto the legislation."

What a bunch of CRAP!!!! The ONLY thing these bigots have objected to in this legislation are the words "sexual-orientation" and "gender identity". Would it be "constitutionally suspect" if the legislation only covered race, ethinicity, religion, gender, disability?

And then have the audacity to make themselves the victims.."this legislation will lead to persecution of Christians"


Anonymous said...

This is a cunundrum, and anyone who thinks you can get to Congress, or stay there, being 100% pure to your beliefs, is dead wrong.

Ellsworth and Donnelly dodged some home-district bullets with their Iraqi War votes. Ditto Baron Hill. They're vulnerable freshman Democrats from conservative districts. No doubt they checked with the House leaderhsip, and determined the bill would pass without their votes.

In the end, sadly, it's much more important that Joe and Brad are in Congress, and voting correctly 80-90% of the time, than not there at all. It's the sad reality of politics. I know for a fact Joe wanted to vote for this. Not sure about Brad E.'s intentions...

Alas, sometimes, you cannot vote for everything you want, if you intend to come back next term.

And before anyone gets all Pollyanna on me, it's the real truth. In a presidential election year, Brad and Joe will have a tougher time winning than they did last time. They don't need to poke sharp sticks in the eye of their districts.

The political hay has already been made on this tough issue; Bush will veto it, and his veto will be sustained by 15-25 votes. And we can use it against Republicans nationally next year.

Let's move on.