The US House of Representatives just passed hate crimes legislation that would extend hate crimes protections to be based on gender, disability, sexual orientation and gender identity in addition to current protections for race, religion, color, and national origin. It still has to go through the Senate and then face veto by you know who.
The thing that really blows me away is that people are actually against this, and that those people happen to call themselves Chrisitians. Now, if folks have a problem with the idea of hate crimes protections in general, eh, I would be happy to discuss that. But the idea that some groups of people should get protections while other groups (groups which happen to experience a disproportionate amount of hate crimes) should not is completely ridiculous. As it happens, the religious right is coming out en force against hate crimes protections for lgbt people. I linked this article about this (really, check it out, it’s a good one) in an earlier post.
It seems the argument has something to do with first amendment rights. They say that they want to be able to say anything they want about the â€śhomosexualsâ€ť in their churches without the fear of getting arrested. Well, this legislation will not impinge on that right. They will still be constitutionally able to spew whatever anti-gay speech they want (from their pulpits or in the street), as long as they arenâ€™t committing a crime against an lgbt person or their property while they are saying it.
Maybe those who are against this legislation have a sense of how closely language and violence are tied. First thing you know after lgbt people have hate crimes protections, society is going to start thinking anti-lgbt hate speech isnâ€™t so hot either.
Here’s some additional thoughts on this. The old ones still apply.
I went to a meeting this week with some people from lgbt faith organizations and the HRC (Human Rights Campaign). I learned some more about this bill that makes me think we need to get our stuff together to encourage our senators to vote for this. It seems that the opposition is using this bill to rally their base. When this was going through the House, representatives were reporting a huge amount of pressure from those that oppose this bill and not so much from those of us that are in favor (5:1 in some places, 10:1 in others). I know that I was thinking this is so obvious that a legislator would have to heartless to not vote yes on this bill. But assuming that congress can and will do the right thing because it is so obvious is dangerous, it leads to apathy and inaction.
Yes, it passed, but not by enough to override the “Decider’s” threatened veto if this makes it through the Senate. Yes, over half of the Senate is likely to vote “yes” on this if it comes to a vote but we’re worried that it could still be filibustered (to protect Bush from having to do what he said he will do) and if it did pass, they’re still going to have a hard time overriding the threatened veto.
This bill is important to fight hate crimes that aren’t currently covered. Those are crimes of bias based on gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, and disability. Yep, this bill isn’t just great for lgbt folk but also for women people and disabled people. It isn’t creating anything new, it is just extending a law to help more of the people who need it. It means that when a crime that happens is a hate crime, the federal government can come in to help investigate and prosecute it if the local authorities don’t have the resources or will to do it. This already happens for crimes based on racial and religious bias (and bias based on color and national origin). Here’s what the HRC has to say about it:
LOVE CONQUERS HATE
Do not stand idly by while the blood of your neighbor is being shed (Lev. 19:16).
No one should live in fear that they will be targeted for attack simply because of who they are. Help bring federal hate crimes laws into the 21st century and provide local law enforcement agencies with the resources they need to combat bias-motivated crime. More than 7,000 people are targeted for violence every year because of their race, religion, ethnicity, national origin or sexual orientation. The Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act will give local law enforcement the tools they need to investigate and prosecute these crimes â€“ thatâ€™s why the bill is supported by the National Sheriffs Association and the International Association of Chiefs of Police.
So the point of all that is, we have to get on this. We need to tell our senators who support this that they are awesome and doing the right thing, we need to tell those on the fence that we want them to do the right thing, and we need to tell the ones that don’t support it that “Hate is Bad” and they should pass this law. “How do we do that?” you ask. Well, I’ll tell you.
1. Call or email your senator or go onto the HRC website to sign their petition thingy. This is good but not nearly as great as writing a letter. Yep, step away from the interwebs for a few minutes and find some of that paper stuff and a pen (even a pencil works) and write a few lines to your senator, fold it up, and place it in one of those envelope things and address it to their office (you could use your interwebs to find their address though, if you must) and don’t forget the stampy thing ($.41 now) and get it to your friendly neighborhood post office. Evidently, Senators think you are really serious if you take the extra time to put the pen to the paper and you get extra bonus points for it.
The most important things to put in your letter, or even tell them in your call or email is this:
- The name and number of the bill: The Matthew Shephad Hate Crimes Act, S. 1105.
- You are one of their constituents, and you want them to vote yes, and why this is personally important to you. You really only need a few lines. What is most important is that you do it.
- Sign it, print your name and address.
2. There are certain Senators who need extra attention, if you live in one of these states, make sure you get out that pen and paper: MN, VA, PA, IN, TN, AR, ME, MO, NV (Those are the ones I can remember, I’ll add the others when I find that list).
3. If you are a member of the clergy, you should go to www.clergyagainsthate.org to sign their petition because politicians need to know that faith people are all about the love and not the hate (as opposed to the message they’ve been getting, which is the opposite). If you aren’t a clergyperson but know someone who is, tell them how important it is to you that they go there and sign that petition.
4. Contact us at BMC, or the good folks at the HRC Religion office, to get more information and resources. We (and they) can help you set up a letter writing day at your church (or wherever) complete with bulletin inserts, sample letters, talking points, handouts, and whatever else you may need.
5. This is really just a warm-up to the upcoming fight over the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). Be on the lookout for things you can do when that gets started.
6. If you are Canadian and wondering what you can do…just thank your lucky Northern stars you don’t have to deal with ridiculous stuff like this and send some good Canadian vibes our way.
That’s what I have for now. It is so important that we get out the message because the opposition is very surely getting theirs out. Don’t let the haters win.
For more great reading on this, check out this article: Who is it OK to hate?