A federal “hate crimes” bill that officially is to enhance punishments for “violence motivated by bias that is a relic of slavery” but is feared by Christians as a potential bludgeon against basic biblical teachings has been returned to the congressional agenda by Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee of Texas.
The proposal had been stymied during the Bush administration by the president’s threat of a veto but President-elect Barack Obama’s own website has promised an expansion of federal “hate crimes” laws.
The bill, the “David Ray Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009,” has been pending in Congress in one form or another since at least 2007 but never was advanced into law because of stated opposition from President Bush, who found it unneeded and probably unconstitutional.
However, the plan by Jackson-Lee, who has advocated for the special protections for those with issues involving “gender identity,” already has been referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary for the 2009 Congress.
A new twist for 2009, however, is the introduction of a companion piece of legislation by Jackson-Lee that would “provide support services for victims of hate crimes.”
It’s been referred to the Committee on the Judiciary as well as the Committees on Ways and Means, Energy and Commerce, Education and Labor, Oversight and others.
It allows victims of “hate crimes” to take federally authorized family and medical leave and collect unemployment insurance, creates grants for housing for such victims and provides counseling and “related assistance.”
Well down in the long list of provisions in the second plan is an attempt to “establish and operate a national clearinghouse and resource center for information and statistics relating to . . . hate crimes.”
The “clearinghouse” would be run by “a private nonprofit organization,” according to the legislation.
Jackson-Lee’s bill says Congress “finds that” crimes motivated by “the actual or perceived . . . sexual orientation, gender, or disability of the victim poses a serious national problem.”
It also alleges the “violence” related to such crimes impedes interstate commerce because members of “targeted groups” cannot purchase goods and services.
Jackson-Lee also claims that the “violence” is “motivated by bias that is a relic of slavery.”
Councilwoman Amanda Green, D-Stanton Heights, introduced the proposal in July.
The bill would prohibit discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, sex, age, marital status, gender identity or sexual orientation. It also would create a 16-member commission to investigate reports of discrimination in county government.
But speaking in support of the bill, the Rev. Janet Edwards, a minister in the Presbyterian Church, USA, said, “religious arguments are bogus” when they engender a status quo that perpetuates bigotry.
Denise Edwards, a Wilkinsburg councilwoman, said the borough’s council voted unanimously to support the county-wide measure.
The bill is co-sponsored by council President Rich Fitzgerald, D-Squirrel Hill, and council members Jim Burn, D-Millvale, Nick Futules, D-Verona, William Robinson, D-Hill District, Joan Cleary, D-Brentwood, and Charles Martoni, D-Swissvale.
“We have a lot of work to do with it,” said Mr. Fitzgerald [Rich Fitzgerald, council president]. “We still have to see whether we can afford to implement it and how it will be enforced, so we still have a long way to go.”