WASHINGTON (BP)--The U.S. Senate passed legislation July 16 to expand hate crimes protections to include homosexuals and transgendered people.
"The bill ... elevates homosexuality and other aberrant sexual behaviors to a specially protected class, and it still creates an opportunity for the prosecution of thought."
-- Barrett Duke
The Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act gained approval as an amendment to a Department of Defense authorization bill, which is expected to be voted on the week of July 20-24. The amendment would add "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" to the current categories -- such as religion and national origin -- protected from hate crimes. "Sexual orientation" includes homosexuality and bisexuality, while "gender identity," or transgendered status, takes in transsexuals and cross-dressers.
The Senate voted 63-28 to invoke cloture, or stop debate, in order to bring the hate crimes amendment up for passage. A cloture effort requires 60 votes to be successful. The amendment then was agreed to by unanimous consent.
The House of Representatives passed a similar measure -- the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, H.R. 1913 -- with a 249-175 vote in late April.
The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) and others oppose such efforts to expand hate crimes protection based not only on their inclusion of categories defined by sexual behavior or identity but also concerns about the potential impact on religious freedom.
They fear the measure, combined with existing law, could expose to prosecution Christians and others who proclaim the Bible's teaching that homosexual behavior and other sexual relations outside marriage are sinful. For example, if a person commits a violent act based on a victim's "sexual orientation" after hearing biblical teaching on the sinfulness of homosexual behavior, the preacher or teacher could be open to a charge of inducing the person to commit the crime, some foes say.
The Senate approved in a 78-13 roll call before the cloture vote an amendment by Sen. Sam Brownback, R.-Kan., intended to protect the free exercise of religion and other First Amendment rights. Brownback's amendment says such freedoms are not to be infringed on under the hate crimes measure as long as their use is not intended to plan, prepare for or incite physical violence. Read More