View From the Hill

Washington debates hate crimes and a slew of ads -- bad, good, and campy -- hit the airwaves on both sides of the same-sex marriage issue.

BY Kerry Eleveld

April 24 2009 12:00 AM ET

I got a lesson in
democracy this week when I attended the
markup of the hate-crimes

bill in the Judiciary Committee, where Republicans offered 14
amendments on the first day of debate alone about a bill that
has fairly widespread support among Democrats and most
Americans and, actually, has already passed both chambers of
Congress in the past.

GOP members wanted to
include pregnant women, unborn children, and the elderly under
the umbrella of targeted groups in the hate-crimes law. They
seemed obsessed with the idea that adding gender, sexual
orientation, gender identity, and people with disabilities to
the hate-crimes definition would surely impinge on religious
freedom, even though language ensuring freedom of speech has
already been added to the bill.

Rep. Steve King of Iowa
offered a diatribe on why the legislation should be renamed the
"Thought Crimes" bill. "This hate-crimes bill is
actually a bill to control our thoughts," King exclaimed,
requesting that George Orwell's classic book
1984

be entered into the record. (What's that old saying? Sometimes
a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing…)

Committee chair John
Conyers declined -- he had never heard of an entire book being
entered into the record.

The bill eventually
passed, 15-12, and while it was all an entertaining exercise in
futility (as the minority party, Republicans were never going
to block the legislation in committee), it was a great reminder
of the resistance that even fairly innocuous pro-LGBT bills
face at the federal level. Every time a Republican congressman
used the term "homosexual," I was convinced he would pull
out his hand-sanitizing solution for a quick sterilization. (No
female members were present on the GOP side.)

The display took me
back to Frank Rich's
delightful piece

in
The New York Times

last Sunday, in which he recounted the now infamous National
Organization for Marriage ad and essentially declared
resistance to same-sex marriage dead. While I do
believe a tectonic cultural shift is in motion, I
also intone a cautionary note -- the fat lady has not
sung just yet. Sure, the NOM ad aroused our cattiest tendencies
- nothing tweaks the gays more than being out-camped by the
Christian right (let's face it, they had some homo help on that
set!). But all gayety aside, the ad did play on real fears many
still harbor about same-gender marriages, and some activists
wondered about a response.

Tags: Politics

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