"This is a big win for the cause of religious freedom and freedom of speech." -- Richard Land
WASHINGTON (BP)--Congress will not vote to expand hate crimes protections to homosexuals and transgendered individuals as part of a military authorization bill for next year, it was announced Dec. 6.
Supporters of the controversial legislation in the House of Representatives were so short of a majority if the Department of Defense authorization bill reached the floor with the hate crimes language included that they chose not to even have a vote. House leaders estimated the bill would have been about 40 votes short of passage, Congressional Quarterly reported.
The House had approved the hate crimes expansion in May as a stand-alone bill, and the Senate had passed it in September as part of the Defense measure. A conference committee of senators and representatives worked on a version to report to both chambers for passage, but Senate conferees chose to drop the hate crimes language when it became clear the House would not approve it.
The White House had indicated President Bush would veto the hate crimes expansion, even if it were part of the Defense legislation.
Current hate crimes law protects traits such as race, religion and national origin, but the bill's opponents say the new legislation is unnecessary and would grant protection based on lifestyle. They also warn it would move federal law toward punishing thoughts and beliefs, since the motivation of a person charged with a hate crime would have to be evaluated. In addition, some critics warn it could lead to suppression of speech that describes homosexual behavior as sinful. Supporters of the bill, however, contend it would only cover violent criminal conduct. Read More