Posted on Apr 28 2009 in Legislative by Yvonne Bunn
In spite of the outcry, the Hate Crimes Prevention Act (H.R. 1913) was passed out of the House Judiciary Committee by a party-line 15 to 12 vote. The full House is scheduled to vote on it Wednesday.
Last year, we had a big weapon: President Bush’s veto pen. We do not have it this time.
The Hate Crimes bill would add gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, and disability to the list of protected categories under federal hate crimes law.
“Sexual orientation” and “gender identity” are vague terms that are not defined. Congressman King (R-IA) offered an amendment that would have barred pedophiles from receiving special protection under the hate crimes bill. The amendment was defeated on a party-line vote 13-10.
It could ultimately lead to prosecution for thoughts and restrictions on free speech and religious liberty. Although H.R. 1913 prosecutes only “crime of violence” and does not prosecute expressions or opinions, it opens the door to examining the thoughts of not only a criminal, but everyone with whom he or she may have come into contact.
An overzealous prosecutor could turn a criminal prosecution into a political correctness prosecution. Broadly written hate crimes bills in other states and countries have been used to restrict the freedom of politically incorrect and unpopular speech. This bill could be used to advance the politically correct agenda in this country by providing greater protections for certain classes of people. Future legislation could expand these protections and place restrictions on religious liberty and free speech.
H.R. 1913 is scheduled for a vote by the full House as soon as Wednesday, April 29. If this issue is important to you, please contact your U.S. House Representative by calling the Capitol switchboard 202-224-3121 and asking for your Congressman or calling their direct line.
H.R. 1913 is a federal hate crimes bill. It will (1) create for the first time a federal hate crime defined as “bodily injury to any person or… attempts to cause bodily injury to any person, because of the actual or perceived religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability of any person”; (2) provide federal support to state, local, or tribal law enforcement agencies if the agency requests federal support in prosecuting hate crimes; and (3) authorize the federal government to prosecute hate crimes if a state does not intend to prosecute the crime, or if the verdict or sentence under state charges “left demonstratively unvindicated the federal interest in eradicating bias-motivated violence.”
(1) It is unconstitutional. The 14th Amendment requires that all citizens be given equal treatment under the law. Hate crimes laws create special classes of victims and do not treat all victims fairly.
(2) It is unnecessary. Violent crimes are already being prosecuted. Furthermore, recent FBI statistics show that crimes motivated by hatred or bias against a trait of the victim are decreasing. Lastly, many states already have some form of hate crimes law. States which do not have hate crimes laws still prosecute the crimes under existing criminal laws. A federal hate crimes bill would only increase the control and scope of the federal government.
HSLDA Senior Counsel