By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Proponents of a controversial hate crimes law that will grant special rights to homosexuals and could threaten religious freedom, used a military spending bill to usher the new law to victory in the U.S. House.
The U.S. House voted Thursday to expand the definition of violent federal hate crimes to cover those committed because of a victim’s gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.
Known as the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act (HR 2647), the bill allocates $5 million per year to the Justice Department to provide assistance to local communities in investigating suspected hate crimes and allows the Justice Department to assist in the inquiry and prosecution of such crimes if requested by local authorities.
“The problem of crimes motivated by bias is sufficiently serious, widespread and interstate in nature as to warrant federal assistance to states, local jurisdictions, and Indian tribes,” the measure says.
The controversial bill was approved only because it was attached to a $681 billion Pentagon policy measure, forcing lawmakers to vote only because they did not want to deny the military much needed resources.
Opponents were infuriated by the strategy with House Republicans accusing Democrats of employing a form of legislative blackmail in order to get the controversial legislation passed. Voting against the bill would have denied the military their pay, benefits, weapons programs and other essentials needed by the military.
“We believe this is a poison pill, poisonous enough that we refuse to be blackmailed into voting for a piece of social agenda that has no place in this bill,” said Representative Todd Akin of Missouri, a senior Republican member of the Armed Services Committee.
Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) said the legislators treated the U.S. military as a “political tool” and as “pack mules” to carry “a despicable and unconstitutional bill that penalizes thought and places a premium on some classes of individuals over others.”
“No American should be more protected from violent crime than another. All violent crimes demonstrate hate and all should be fully prosecuted,” Rep. Price added. “Justice should be blind, but Democrats have rejected the credo of our Founders that all people are created equal. This legislation will eventually invite the prosecution of Americans for their thoughts and religious beliefs, basic provinces protected by the First Amendment.”
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, called the new legislation a “thought-crimes bill” that creates “special protection for a particular group” in violation of the principle of equal justice under the law.
“This measure is about giving special rights based solely on sexual behavior,” he said. “All of our citizens deserve equal justice under the law. Do we somehow care less about victims violently assaulted in the act of robbery or during a personal dispute than we do about those assaulted because they belong in a federally designated, politically motivated category?”
The bill is expected to pass in the Senate and President Obama has already said he will sign it into law when it reaches his desk.
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