It has been a long, arduous battle to get federal hate crimes legislation expanded to include acts of violence based on sexual orientation. The House has already passed legislation incorporating such an expansion of the original 1968 Hate Crimes statute covering religion, race, color and national origin, but the bill--a bipartisan effort of Senators Gordon Smith (R-OR) and Edward Kennedy (D-MA), just made its way through the Senate with the minimum 60 votes needed for passage.
Now, I know this is on the front page, but what kos' post didn't tell you is that the Hate Crimes expansion in the Senate was tacked onto the defense appropriations bill currently being debated--and that Bush is expected to veto the whole thing, just because of this amendment.
First of all, I'm a little uncomfortable with the strategy of attaching this bill to something like the defense appropriations bill--but then again, the Republicans did similar stuff to us so often in their time in Congress that turnabout is more than fair play. I just think the practice should be outlawed...but regardless...
Yes, my fellow Americans, that's right. It's so important to George Bush that GLBT people not be given the legislative protection of an expanded hate crime bill that he will veto the entire defense spending bill just to make sure it doesn't happen. As Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) says:
"This bill will get vetoed," Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) warned. "The president is not going to agree to this social legislation on the defense authorization bill."
Graham contended that the hate-crime provision puts in jeopardy a bill that would fund armored vehicles, pay raises and other things for the troops.
"When I go to Iraq, I don't have a lot of people coming up to me and saying we need to pass the hate crimes bill. They do need better body armor."
That's right, Lindsey. Because when the Republicans were in charge of Congress, you guys did such a fantastic job of prioritizing the soldiers in the field that they had to buy their own armor. Good to know that you and your colleagues care so much about body armor, but protecting gays from violence--including from fellow soldiers in the military--is simply unacceptable.
You know what else I love? The argument that we shouldn't even have hate crimes legislation at all:
Opponents argued that the bill would create special classes of crime victims.
"All crimes of violence are crimes of hate," Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said.
Ok...by that token, we shouldn't have had the original hate crimes legislation of 1968...or maybe that's exactly what John Cornyn thinks! But the fact of the matter is that the law creates special classes of crime victims precisely to demonstrate to society that certain crimes are especially execrable. That is why we have special circumstances for police officers, trial witnesses and so many other groups of people. Saying that we shouldn't create special classes of crime victims and opposing an expansion of hate crimes on that basis is unashamedly hypocritical. But hey--what else would you expect from your local Republican these days?
But here's what I know--Mr. 25% will think nothing of vetoing the entire defense spending bill just to make sure that gays don't get legal protections they deserve. But if he does veto the whole thing over this, we will need to keep the pressure on our Congress (I hear the sighs, and I sympathize) to make sure they don't cave. And we'll see which Republicans stand with Mr. 25%, as opposed to "putting the troops in danger by not passing the bill." I'm ready for a game of chicken on the railroad tracks with this. Let's see who swerves first.