[EDITOR'S NOTE:] The following is a guest post by Congressman Brad Ellsworth. Representative Ellsworth recently voted against the federal hate crimes bill that passed the House of Representatives. Only fourteen democratic legislators voted against the bill; two were from Indiana. Indiana's other NO vote, Congressman Joe Donnelly, guest blogged yesterday. Please be as courteous with your comments as you would if you were talking to the Congressman face-to-face. See our comments policy for any questions.
Thank you for the opportunity to express my thoughts on H.R. 1592, The Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act. I know most readers will not agree with my opposition to this bill, but I appreciate your willingness to listen to an alternative viewpoint.
This was a difficult decision for me because I did not want my opposition to the bill to be perceived as an endorsement of violence against the gay community. I have spent a career in law enforcement trying to keep all members of the community safe, and do not condone violence against any person. I have seen first hand the impact violent crimes have on victims and communities, and I believe that those who commit these crimes should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
But my experiences also taught me that most violent crimes are based on hate of one kind or another, and passing legislation doesn't change that. Legislation can't change thoughts or emotions. It doesn't stop an individual's destructive impulses or dangerous misperceptions. And, most importantly, I don't believe legislation will prevent people from committing heinous acts of violence against others.
As I was making this decision, I contacted Sheriffs and county prosecutors in all 18 counties of the 8th District because I wanted to hear from the people who investigate and prosecute violent crimes every day. I asked them whether this legislation would be a helpful tool for them, and those I heard from were unanimous that this legislation would not make our communities safer. I believe their responses were sincere.
When I came to Washington, I promised to always listen to the people of the 8th District to make the best decision possible. Supporting this legislation would have meant ignoring the advice of the Sheriffs and prosecutors, the wishes of an overwhelming number of 8th District constituents, and my own law enforcement experiences.
That being said, I haven't forgotten my background. I spent the past 24 years protecting communities from violent crime, regardless of the motive. I will continue that work in Congress by working to provide local law enforcement with the tools necessary to fight all crimes.
Again, thank you for the opportunity to discuss this piece of legislation with you. I want to encourage readers to continue this discussion by contacting my office about issues important to the gay community, including workplace discrimination and domestic partner benefits. I need to hear all sides of these issues to make the best decision possible, and my door is always open to the people of the 8th District.
Congressman Brad Ellsworth
Indiana's 8th Congressional District