Hate Crimes Prevention Act May Come to a Vote Today

Urge Your Senators to Vote Yes on S.622

June 30, 1999 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Blogger Tumblr

Republican Co-Sponsors of HCPA:
Senator Arlen Specter (PA)
Senator Gordon Smith (OR)
Senator John Chafee (RI)
Senator Jim Jeffords (VT)
Senator Olympia Snowe (ME)

The Hate Crimes Prevention Act is being offered as an amendment to the Commerce, Justice, State and Judiciary Appropriations bill in the United States Senate, and may come to a vote as early as today. Call your Senators and urge them to vote yes on S.622, the Hate Crimes Amendment to the Commerce Appropriates Bill.

American society, through legislative means, has chosen to use increased penalties to punish hate crimes based on race, religion, gender, and ethnicity. Sexual orientation has been largely excluded from such legislation. Society has historically used the application of greater penalties for aggravating circumstances or other particular circumstances directly related to a crime in part to make a clear moral statement as a society.

The Hate Crimes Prevention Act is notable for its inclusion of sexual orientation.

Far right organizations who have been consistent enemies of any form of equality or acceptance of gay people, clearly understand the moral statement that this legislation would make. Some have even taken pains to say that in the current debate, while they believe in protecting a variety of other groups, they expressly oppose the inclusion of gays in such legislation.

An official statement of the Family Research Council, for example, states that their opposition to "expanding the definition of federal hate crimes by adding sexual orientation to the list of protected classes" is based on their belief that "it is unconstitutional to elevate a category of sexual behavior to a legally privileged status." The Christian Coalition, which has crusaded to increase penalties for arson committed against churches, has also announced its opposition to including sexual orientation in hate crimes laws. Elaborating on that theme, the Traditional Values Coalition states in its opposition to the bill that by including sexual orientation in a hate crimes law, "the elevation of such a lifestyle into a protected group is a government endorsement of that lifestyle."

Furthermore, some Democrats aim to use this bill to portray Republicans as uncaring in response to the increase in anti-gay murders in the United States, and to make it harder for you to muster voter and community support for Republicans in upcoming elections. We have an obligation to communicate this to Republicans as well, and to urge them to make absolutely clear their moral opposition to hate-motivated crimes against gay Americans. Support of HCPA is one important way for them to do that.

The Facts:

1. Society must make a moral statement against hate-motivated murders directed at anyone because of who they are, including hate crimes based on sexual orientation.

2. The U.S. Senate will vote on the Hate Crimes Prevention Act shortly, as an amendment to the Commerce Appropriations bill.

3. There is an effort by some to use this issue to portray Republicans as uncaring and unresponsive to hate-motivated crimes. It is imperative that each Senator, on the occasion of this debate and vote, make a clear moral statement that hate-motivated crimes are wrong and shouldn't be tolerated. Voting in favor of HCPA is one important way to join in making this important moral statement to the nation.