Hate crimes could pass, but we still have work to do

BTL Staff
By | 2018-01-15T23:20:24-04:00 July 23rd, 2009|Uncategorized|

Finally. It is the word on the lips of every LGBT and allied citizen of the United States; of every person who has ever been assaulted or seen their friends assaulted; of every parent who worries not only what happens to their gay child in school, but in the real world, too.
Finally.
Though we’re not there yet, the past week saw substantial movement in hate crimes legislation in Congress.
On July 17, the Senate passed hate crimes legislation as an addition to the 2010 Defense Spending Bill in a 63-28 vote. It is arguably the best chance the bill, which would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of categories protected by law, has ever had of actually passing into national law.
The good news? The Department of Defense authorization bill absolutely must be passed quickly, and should be voted on by the end of September. For the LGBT community, this is good news because it means that the hate crimes attachment must also be voted on as soon as possible and (hopefully) signed into law by President Obama. Moreover, it means that conservative Republicans who have consistently opposed hate crimes legislations for LGBTs must pass that bill to pass the defense spending. The attachment of hate crimes to this bill, in essence, was a sly way of making our agenda the conservatives’ agenda. And it could work.
Moreover, the provision that would have caused the whole bill to be vetoed by Obama – $1.75 billion toward F-22 fighter jets – was taken out of the bill on July 21. That measure, which may have halted not only passage of defense spending but also the hate crimes legislation, is no longer a hurdle for either.
Now the bad news. It comes by way of – who else? – conservative opponents. The biggest concern is an amendment introducted by Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) that would allow the death penalty to be administered for some hate crimes. Though it sounds as though Sen. Sessions cares deeply about prosecuting those who commit hate crimes, it’s actually designed to push supporters of the bill away who do not agree with that particular measure. It has already caused flags to go up by LGBT groups the Human Rights Campaign and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.
Though this is not quite the national push for LGBT rights we had all hoped to see during Obama’s first six months of presidency, it is exciting to know that within a relatively short period of time, hate crimes legislation could become law.
It’s not the way we imagined it happening, nor will its passage signal a change in the hearts and minds of many conservatives who still cannot see the need to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people against assault or attack based on who they are.
And because of that, passage of hate crimes legislation will be a hurdle passed, but not a war won. We still need to explain to people why this legislation is necessary and win over the hearts of our opponens, because only then can we imagine a time where hate crimes legislation becomes a safety net for the possibility of hate – not an absolute necessity for the hundreds of LGBT victims each year who receive no justice.

About the Author:

BTL Staff
Between The Lines has been publishing LGBTQ-related content in Southeast Michigan since the early '90s. This year marks the publication's 25th anniversary.