For the second time in four years, Republican-led congressional negotiators have ripped out a hate-crimes prevention bill that had been added to spending legislation. The move, which was expected by national gay rights groups, effectively kills any kind of new protections for gay Americans, lawmakers said Thursday.
"The Republican leadership has unconscionably ignored the will of House and the Senate and stripped the hate-crimes prevention provisions," said House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, a California congresswoman. "The needs of law enforcement--which have repeatedly requested federal assistance in solving and preventing a wide range of violent hate crimes--have been ignored."
The Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act would add real or perceived sexual orientation, gender, and disability to federal hate-crime laws, thus allowing the federal government the ability to provide critical assistance to state, local, and federal law enforcement to combat violent crimes against victims because of their race, sexual orientation, religion, national origin, gender, or disability. It was included by the Senate as part of the Defense Authorization Bill.
"This is a sad day for America," said Wisconsin congresswoman Tammy Baldwin. "All Americans, regardless of their race, gender, disability, or sexual orientation, have a right to feel safe in their communities. Hate crimes are different than other violent crimes because they seek to instill fear and terror throughout a whole community--whether it is burning a cross in someone's yard, burning a synagogue, or a rash of physical assaults near a gay community center."
On June 14, the Senate included the Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Hate Crimes Prevention Act in the defense bill by a bipartisan vote of 65-33, with 18 Republicans in support of the measure. In September, the House voted 213-186--including 31 Republicans in support--to instruct House conferees to retain the Senate language in the final version of the bill.
The House passed a similar motion to instruct in September 2000, by a 232-192 vote, with 41 Republicans, but that amendment was stripped out in conference committee.
The current defense department bill is expected to be completed by Friday. It will be voted on by the House and Senate and then be send to President Bush.