Michael Crawford

Hate Crimes Bill Hits Major Snag

Filed By Michael Crawford | November 17, 2007 9:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: Congress, ENDA, gay rights, hate crimes against LGBT people, politics

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.

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This Congress is really beginning to annoy me. It's almost as if it's still controlled by Bush himself. Most Americans want a sensible exit strategy, and yet not even the progressive party is willing to do what it takes to get that.

Finally, someone bothered to bring this to light!

I can't help but to be both amused and tired at the spineless and insidious antics the Democrats pull off on us.

Also, I agree with the whole ENDA/Matthew Sheppard Act hypocrisy. Where are the people bellowing out bloody foul over this attempt at dropping the language? No countless contributions on the project, no angry articles over at 365gay.com. It is saddening to see that our community would rather "torpedo" a partly useful legislation and accept the removal of a substantial bill that will help most against what our community suffers from the most, violence, than to actually focus on fighting for a bill that would do justice to those who live in states like Alabama and allow the FBI to more accurately represent our community in its hate crimes statistics.

We have a saying in Australia: "They couldn't organise a piss-up in a brewery". You don't have to be familiar with Australian idiom to get the drift.

As a right-winger, I deplore the situation. The GOP is lazy, corrupt, and rotten, and is getting worse every day. Why? Because their political opposition, instead of keeping them on their toes, can't tell their arses from their elbows.

For a Democracy to work, Government needs a strong opposition. This isn't a Left vs Right thing, it's a threat to the system. If the party I'd prefer to vote for isn't to be taken over by the Christian Taliban, the DNC needs to get its act together. Meanwhile the GOP rots from the head.

This is truly laughable.

History repeats itself and people are too blind to see it.


Susan Robins

Exactly, Sue. You'd think people would have learned from last time in '04, when John Kerry first opposed a trans-inclusive ENDA and then, once that had been accomplished with virtually no complaint from our major community activist organizations (he still got a 100% rating from HRC), Kerry took the next step and came out in favor of a ban on same-sex marriage in Massachusetts.

You'd think at least HRC would have a clue since he screwed the trannies first in the HRC questionnaire, but of course, they won't dare speak out against their DNC masters.

The only real difference between gays and transpeople for the Democratic Party leadership are the order in which we and our rights are to be jettisoned from Party support once we become politically inconvenient.

Why the smiley, Susan? Why would someone put such a smug emoticon while also claiming to be the privileged who is able to see while others cannot? I was expecting lengthy, angry diatribes on how this is throwing people under the bus, too, how strange.

I also don't see any mentions so far in the HRC, Taskforce, or Lambda Legal sites. So much for representing the LGBT community; apparently the ENDA brouhaha is the only event worthy of mention and galvanization.

I don't see how ENDA is more important than hate crimes legislation. There is nothing more important than justice for LGBTs who are callously murdered and assaulted, with their assailants either not ending up charged, getting away with a slap in the wrist, or successfully fending off charges with such devious defense as the "gay panic" defense. To see the community and its "representative" organizations so uninterested in mentioning this threat is aggravating beyond avail.

Both are important Lucrece, but ENDA protections will help transgender people acquire and maintain employment so we can feed our families and keep roofs over our heads. Hate crimes protections, while certainly very important both for the message they send and the penalties they will carry for those who commit those crimes, only kick in once the damage has already been done.

In short, hate crimes protections will help avenge those who have had their lives unfairly cut short by bigotry, but ENDA protections will help transgender people and their families feed, house, and clothe themselves while they are still alive. Both are indeed important, but the real-world protections offered by ENDA are naturally a far more immediate and life-affecting concern.

Incorrect, Rebecca, hate crimes laws are just as proactive as ENDA laws. They discourage would-be perpetrators with threats of elongated sentences, just like ENDA discourages discriminations with threats of legal repercussions. If you see hate crime legislation as reactive, then so are ENDA laws, for they only take effect when the damage is done (losing your job).

Talking about life-affecting concerns, what good are benefits if you don't live long enough to benefit from them fully? Hate crimes laws do great work in discouraging assailants, not to mention it helps departments better device proactive policies since they allow the FBI to register them into their statistics.

As for feeding families, I'd much rather prefer increased safety and decreased levels of violence over financial frivolity. I'd also find you hard-pressed to tell the mothers and fathers of their brutalized, broken/shot/stabbed/tortured dead sons (and in some cases, daughters) that their quest for justice should take a backseat to the passing of a far more controversial piece of legislation that merely deals with economic aspects. Those who, unlike fired transgenders who still have their families, have lost their own family should not wait until America moves on transgender issues concerning ENDA; hate crimes law see far more support, and thus they should be spent the most time and vigorous effort on since they're more likely to be passed soon.

When you see your son get beaten to the point where he suffers concussions and needs to learn again how to manage motor skills and talk fluidly, and the perpetrators only get 90 days, you want real justice to be written down. Maybe you have not been one to end up in a hospital as a result of a bashing where the charges on the perpetrators are pitifully insignificant, having to swallow the humiliation of feeling powerless and never gaining justice, betrayed by the very system that is supposed to protect you. Victims of vicious violence know the importance of curbing these happenings; hate crimes laws, which restore whatever shred of dignity one might have left in him/herself after victimization, to me, take importance over everything else. They tell you that people care about what happened, that they will not tolerate it, and that those who dare transgress will be treated with utmost lack of lenience.

I disagree, Lucrece. As far as I'm aware, hate crimes laws have not been shown to have a real impact in terms of being a deterrent against them happening. The reason these laws are useful is because they authorize federal assistance in investigating hate crimes, saving the local authorities a lot of money, and because they offer victim's families a measure of closure and justice by helping to ensure stiff sentences for perpetrators.

Of course, in order to actually have an stats on whether a hate crime law would be a deterrent in the first place, you'd have to actually track them first, and since that's never been officially done for transpeople, there's really no way to say for sure.

One thing we do know, though, is that a trans-inclusive ENDA would save jobs, lives, and the dignity of thousands of LGBT Americans and our families. There's no doubt about that, or of the importance it would have in our lives...unless of course you happen to be part of the Democratic Party leadership or the Human Rights Campaign Executive Board, and then the job security of a few cowardly Congressmen would, of course, take priority over the job security of thousands of lower and middle class gender-variant Americans...

I understand your perspective, Rebecca, but I do not feel that we should kill an already inclusive bill with better chances to pass and instead spend all our immediate time and energy on a controversial bill that won't be touched until probably 2009 or more.