Monday, April 20, 2009

Hate Crime Legislation Vote Later This Week

I don't keep up with gay rights as much as I should, so I was surprised to read that Deb Price now writes the first nationally syndicated column on gay issues. Good for her. I only know her work in the Detroit News. (Does anyone else find it ironic that she writes for them?)

Anyway, outside of reading quite a bit about gay marriage in recent months, I didn't realize the Obama administration has been reaching out to the gay community in so many ways. Here are some highlights from Price's recent column, including a mention about the hate crimes legislation that lawmakers will be voting on later this week.
The Obama White House invited gay leaders to the health care and fiscal responsibility summits, the signing of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and the executive order creating the White House Council on Women and Girls, and an online town hall. Gay parents were encouraged to bring their kids to the Easter egg roll. [...]

The White House outreach has included Mara Keisling of the National Center for Transgender Equality and Rebecca Fox of the National Coalition for LGBT Health. [...]

And Obama is salting gay talent through his administration. Most noteworthy is John Berry, confirmed by the Senate as director of the Office of Personnel Management. That puts a gay man in charge of the 1.9 million federal employees, including overseeing their benefits.

Other appointees include Emily Hewitt, an ordained Episcopal priest, as chief judge of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. A peek at Hewitt's biography on her official court site shows the comfort Obama's gay choices feel: "Chief Judge Hewitt is married to Eleanor Dean Acheson."

Obama tapped Fred Hochberg to chair the U.S. Export-Import Bank, Harry Knox to serve on the Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, and Nancy Sutley to chair the White House Council on Environmental Quality.
Price also reports that Obama told two leaders of the Human Rights Campaign that he intends to sign the hates crimes legislation when it reaches his desk, and he supports the need for a federal ban on job discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

The Hate Crime Legislation (H.R. 1913) was introduced by John Conyers and has 42 sponsors. The House Judiciary Committee is set to vote on the bill this Wednesday. Language in the bill includes “sexual orientation," which has some "family groups" going bonkers. The Traditional Values Coalition released this statement:
“The so-called hate crimes bill will be used to lay the legal foundation and framework to investigate, prosecute and persecute pastors, business owners, Bible teachers, Sunday School teachers, youth leaders, Christian counselors, religious broadcasters and anyone else whose actions are based upon and reflect the truths found in the Bible.”
Not surprisingly, their position is inaccurate and irrational. The bill does not restrict free speech. In fact, the ACLU's support for this bill was contingent upon a provision that is the strongest protection for free speech in the entire federal criminal code.

It'll be interesting to see how Republicans vote. Will they pander to extremists or vote to send the message that violent hate crimes have no place in our country?


Queers United said...

It amazes me how anyone can be against a hate crimes bill, it sickens me. I hope it passes with healthy bipartisan support.

Kathy said...

QU, thanks for dropping in and commenting. I'm amazed that anyone would vote against the bill either, and I should have mentioned that the legislation goes beyond the gay community. From the ACLU link above:

...the bill would remove existing jurisdictional obstacles to the federal government prosecuting certain violent acts based on race, color, national origin, and religion, and also create new authority for the federal government to prosecute certain violent acts based on gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability.

K. said...

QU: People against them will tell you that hate crimes bills are unnecessary, that we need to enforce existing laws, and that they are certainly not prejudiced against gays but that they do fear the homosexual agenda which hate crimes bills are a Trojan horse for but this doesn't mean that they are prejudiced (perish the thought) but they do hold traditional values and then they laugh uproariously at Rush Limbaugh's impression of Barney Frank and really it's the liberal who are anti-gay.