Senate Expands Hate Crimes Act
Special Report - July 24, 2009
Legislation that would grant special protections to homosexual, bisexual and transgendered individuals under federal hate crimes laws has been attached to a military funding bill in the U.S. Senate. The Senate voted 63 to 28 on July 16 to attach the controversial “Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act” to the “National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010” (S.1390). The move puts the pro-homosexual legislation one step closer to becoming law.
The “Matthew Shepard Act” expands the scope of federal enforcement of hate crime laws and adds “actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity” to the list of protected categories. The House passed its version of the legislation in April. President Obama, who made passage of the bill part of his legislative agenda, is expected to sign the measure if it makes it to his desk.
“By voting in ‘hate crimes’ legislation under the cover of the Defense Authorization bill, Congress enacted a law that is unnecessary, unjust, constitutionally suspect, and that opens the door for religiously-based prosecutions,” said Ashley Horne, federal issues analyst for Focus on the Family Action.
On July 16, the Senate passed an amendment (S.AMDT.1610) sponsored by Senator Sam Brownback that is intended to “clarify that the [hate crimes] amendment shall not be construed or applied to infringe on First Amendment rights.” Pro-family groups welcomed the passage of the Brownback Amendment, but warned that the “Matthew Shephard Act” still threatens religious liberty. “The Brownback amendment offers some needed protections for people of faith who express their faith convictions about homosexuality and certain other aberrant sexual behaviors,” said Barrett Duke, vice president for public policy and research at the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. “The amendment protects the pastor as long as his speech or other action was not ‘intended’ to lead to an act of violence. However, it does not protect a pastor from government scrutiny if a member of his congregation engages in an act of violence against someone in one of these protected groups after he has heard a negative statement from the pastor about the group.”
The House and Senate will decide whether to retain the provision with the Brownback Amendment, as well as other amendments, as they negotiate the final version of the Department of Defense spending bill over the next two months.
“The ‘Matthew Shepard Act’ is a dangerous piece of legislation, particularly for Christians who object to homosexuality on Biblical grounds,” said Bill Brooks, president of the North Carolina Family Policy Council. “Even if Congress retains the Brownback Amendment, the expansion of federal hate crimes laws to include protections for homosexuality, bisexuality and transgenderism represents a serious threat to the religious freedom and free speech rights of Christians, and could ultimately lead to the silencing of any voices that dare to speak out against the normalization of homosexuality.”
Copyright © 2009. North Carolina Family Policy Council. All rights reserved.