On March 20, 2007, Representatives John Conyers (D-MI) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) introduced H.R. 1592, the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2007 (LLEHCPA). This bill is a revision of the current federal hate crime law, which Congress passed in 1968. The current hate crime law allows federal investigation and prosecution of hate crimes based on race, religion, and national origin. H.R. 1592, if passed, will add sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, and disability to the law.
To me, this addition just seems natural, and I was surprised it hadn’t been introduced earlier.
There has been opposition to this bill, mostly from religious conservatives who believe that it will regulate what they can and cannot say about certain lifestyles they oppose; mainly homosexuality. This simply is not true.
This bill does not punish people for what they say, because that would be a restriction upon our freedom of speech. This bill hopes to expand protection to a more diverse group of people. Whether or not one agrees with the way another person lives, I would hope that everyone would agree that no one deserves to suffer at the hands of another person for the way they choose to live their life.
This bill not only serves to protect homosexuals, but also victims targeted because of some disabilities they may have, or because of gender bias.
What I can’t seem to understand is how people can justify race, religion, and national origin as being more important than one’s gender, disability, or sexual orientation. Why were some of these issues deemed important enough to protect, while others were left out?
How can the people of the United States, who consistently advocate equal rights for all, argue that being abused because of one’s gender is less criminal than because of race?
According to Reverend Louis P. Sheldon, chairman of the Traditional Values Coalition, a fundamentalist Christian group, “This bill begins to lay the legal foundation and framework to investigate, prosecute and persecute pastors, business owners, and anyone else whose actions are based upon, and reflect, the truths found in the Bible.” Responding to many religious groups’ concerns about the bill, Senator Gordon H. Smith, (R-OR), a sponsor of the Senate bill, said that “Unless they believe part of their religion is the practice of violence against others, they should not be affected by this bill.” This argument is so powerful because it refutes so completely one of the main arguments many Conservatives are using to try to keep the bill from passing.
Conservatives want the bill vetoed by President Bush in order to uphold “our nation’s constitutional tradition of equal protection under the law.” How can the government justify there being equal protection when so many groups of people have been left out of this bill?
Politicians exist for the sole purpose of representing the people, so they need to get over their own personal beliefs and do what’s necessary in order to protect the people they serve.