Friday, October 23, 2009
Senate Approves Bill to Protect Victims of Gender- or Sexual-Orientation-Based Hate Crimes
NY Times: Senate Approves Broadened Hate Crime-Crime Measure, by David Stout:
The Senate voted Thursday to extend new federal protections to people who are victims of violent crime because of their sex or sexual orientation, bringing the measure close to reality after years of fierce debate.
The 68-to-29 vote sends the legislation to President Obama, who has said he supports it.
The measure, attached to an essential military-spending bill, broadens the definition of federal hate crimes to include those committed because of a victim’s gender or gender identity, or sexual orientation. It gives victims the same federal safeguards already afforded to people who are victims of violent crimes because of their race, color, religion or national origin...
Opponents argued to no avail that the new measure was unnecessary in view of existing laws and might interfere with local law enforcement agencies. Senator Jim DeMint, Republican of South Carolina, said he agreed that hate crimes were terrible. “That’s why they are already illegal,” Mr. DeMint said, asserting that the new law was a dangerous, even “Orwellian” step toward “thought crime....”
The Senate action came two weeks after the House approved the measure, 281 to 146, and would give the federal government the authority to prosecute violent, antigay crimes when local authorities failed to.
The measure would also allocate $5 million a year to the Justice Department to assist local communities in investigating hate crimes, and it would allow the agency to assist in investigations and prosecutions if local agencies requested help.