Saturday, September 17, 2011

Obama signs hate crimes bill into law in 2009

CNN - Gay Rights

President Obama on Wednesday signed a law that makes it a federal crime to assault an individual because of his or her sexual orientation or gender identity.

The expanded federal hate crimes law, hailed by supporters as the first major federal gay rights legislation, was added to a $680 billion defense authorization bill that Obama signed at a packed White House ceremony.

The hate crimes measure was named for Matthew Shepard, a gay Wyoming teenager who died after being kidnapped and severely beaten in October 1998, and James Byrd Jr., an African-American man dragged to death in Texas the same year.

Shepard's mother, Judy, was among those at the ceremony that also included Vice President Joe Biden, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Attorney General Eric Holder and leading members of Congress and the Pentagon, who were on hand for the appropriations bill signing.

To loud applause, Obama hailed the hate crimes measure in the bill as a step toward change to "help protect our citizens from violence based on what they look like, who they love, how they pray."

He cited the work of the late Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts and others "to make this day possible."

Later Wednesday, Obama stood with Shepard's parents and relatives of Byrd at a separate White House event honoring passage of the expanded hate crimes law.

Noting reports of 12,000 crimes based on sexual orientation over the past 10 years, Obama called the bill another step in the continuing struggle for protecting human rights.

"Because of the efforts of the folks in this room, particularly those family members standing behind me, the bell rings even louder now," Obama said. When he finished his remarks, he hugged the weeping relatives as the audience applauded.

Several religious groups have expressed concern that a hate crimes law could be used to criminalize conservative speech relating to subjects such as abortion or homosexuality. However, Holder has said that any federal hate-crimes law would be used only to prosecute violent acts based on bias, not to prosecute speech based on controversial racial or religious beliefs.

Former President George W. Bush had threatened to veto a similar measure, but Obama brought a reversal of that policy to the White House.

When the bill won final congressional approval last week, Human Rights Campaign president Joe Solmonese called the hate crimes measure "our nation's first major piece of civil rights legislation for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people."

President says 'hate crimes' plan unneeded
Advisers would recommend veto of discriminatory federal plan
May 2007

One day after WND reported Christian activists were seeking a pledge from the president to veto a "hate crimes" bill now approved by the U.S. House, the White House issued a statement saying the proposal is "unnecessary and constitutionally questionable."

The plan, H.R. 1592 by U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., is feared by opponents, as WND has reported, as a means to target Christians and to demolish both freedom of speech and religion in the United States. The House voted 237-180 for it today.

"The administration favors strong criminal penalties for violent crime, including crimes based on personal characteristics, such as race, color, religion, or national origin. However … if H.R. 1592 were presented to the president, his senior advisers would recommend that he veto the bill," the White House said.

The statement said state and local criminal laws already provide penalties for the violence addressed by the new federal crime defined in the bill, and many carry stricter penalties than the proposed language.
"State and local law enforcement agencies and courts have the capability to enforce those penalties and are doing so effectively. There has been no persuasive demonstration of any need to federalize such a potentially large range of violent crime enforcement…" the statement said.

It said the administration believes all violent crimes are unacceptable, regardless of the victims, and should be punished "firmly."

"I think it's a good sign, for now," said Michael Marcavage, of Repent America, an organization whose members include several Christians jailed for proclaiming their beliefs on public streets in Philadelphia.

Former White House insider Chuck Colson, in his Breakpoint commentary, called it a "Thought Crimes" plan.

"It's called the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act. But this bill is not about hate. It's not even about crime. It's about outlawing peaceful speech – speech that asserts that homosexual behavior is morally wrong," he said.

Leaders at Concerned Women for America had asked for the veto promise.

"This bill would grant individuals who engaged in homosexual behavior ("sexual orientation") or those who cross-dress ("gender identity") preferential treatment over other citizens by elevating them to a specially protected class of victim," the organization said.

"The 14th Amendment guarantees all citizens equal protection under the law, regardless of their chosen sexual behaviors. There is no evidence to suggest that homosexuals or cross-dresser do not receive equal protection under the law," the CWFA said.

"Victims are – and should be – treated equally in the justice system, regardless of their 'sexual orientation,'" said CWFA President Wendy Wright. "This 'hate crimes' bill would overturn this balance, creating second-class victims and a federal justice system that discriminates against grandmothers, children, women and men simply because they are heterosexual."

"Some say we need this law to prevent attacks on homosexuals. But we already have laws against assaults on people and property," Colson continued. "Moreover, according to the FBI, crimes against homosexuals in the United States have dropped dramatically in recent years. In 2005, out of 863,000 cases of aggravated assault, just 177 cases were crimes of bias against homosexuals…"

He noted, as WND earlier reported, in other locations, such as England, Sweden, Canada, and even Philadelphia, where similar laws have been approved, the "Thought Police" already have prosecuted Christians.

In Philadelphia, a grandmother was hauled to jail and threatened with 47 years in prison for proclaiming her Christianity on a public street, Repent America has reported.

One Philadelphia woman, Arlene Elshinnawy, 75, and grandmother of three, was holding a sign: "Truth is hate to those who hate the truth," before she was hauled off by police officers.

Faith2Action has launched a series of ads, which can be viewed at about the concerns.

The concerns also were echoed by Peter LaBarbera of Americans for Truth.

"This is really about getting the heavy hand of the federal government in promoting homosexuality as a 'civil right,'" he said.

Glen Lavy, of the Alliance Defense Fund, earlier wrote to Congress warning the plan would criminalize thoughts and beliefs.

"This is a terrible thing, to criminalize thought or emotion or even speech," Lavy told WND.

WND columnist Janet Folger earlier warned in a commentary called "Pastors: Act now or prepare for jail," that in New Hampshire, a crime that typically carries a sentence of 3 1/2 years was "enhanced" to 30 years because a robber shouted an anti-homosexual name at his victim.

Read more: President says 'hate crimes' plan unneeded


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