According to the Washington Blade, final passage of the federal hate crimes bill is in jeopardy.
As many as 20 House Democrats who are strong gay rights supporters indicated they might vote against the National Defense Authorization Act because it includes provisions that support President Bush’s efforts to continue the Iraq war, Capitol Hill sources said.
At the same time, as many as 180 House Republicans and conservative Democrats who voted against a freestanding version of the hate crimes bill in May threatened to vote against the Department of Defense authorization measure this week unless the hate crimes provision were taken out, congressional insiders said.
The hate crimes language includes both sexual orientation and gender identity. The language was added to the Defense Department authorization as part of a strategy to improve the chances of President Bush not vetoing the measure. The president has threatened to veto a stand alone hate crimes bill. The DOD bill is something that he desperately wants passed and may sign even if it means passing the hate crimes language into law.
The back and forth over the hate crimes language has been occurring in negotiations between leaders in the House and Senate over the last couple of months as many LGBT activists and organizations have been consumed with the drama over ENDA. Some LGBT activists have been focused more on torpedoing a sexual orientation ENDA which recently passed the House over building support for the hate crimes bill. If the hate crimes bill becomes law, it would be the first major piece of civil rights legislation containing sexual orientation and gender identity to ever become law.
Deliberations on the DOD bill and the hate crimes language is expected to continue when Congress returns from the Thanksgiving recess in December. I hope that those organizations who mobilized to oppose sexual orientation ENDA will now be mobilizing to urge members of Congress to keep the hate crimes language in the DOD bill.