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Hate-crimes measure may be near passage in Senate, group warns

WASHINGTON (BP)–Legislation that would expand protection under a hate-crimes law to include homosexuality may be on the verge of passage, a pro-family organization on Capitol Hill is saying.
The Traditional Values Coalition reported in a July 20 message to other foes of the bill the Hate Crimes Prevention Act (S. 622) may be considered as early as July 21. Supporters of the legislation plan to offer it as an amendment to the appropriations bill for the Commerce, Justice and State departments (S. 1217).
The hate-crimes bill has 37 cosponsors, and “supporters say they have the necessary votes to win,” TVC said in its memorandum. Five of the cosponsors are Republicans. If all 45 Democrats vote for the bill, a 50-50 tie will result, and Vice President Al Gore, as president of the Senate, will cast the tie-breaker in favor of the legislation, TVC said. It also is possible other Republicans may support the bill.
The bill would expand a 1969 hate-crimes law that bans the use of force or threat of force against a person “because of his race, color, religion or national origin.” The bill would add gender, disability and “sexual orientation,” which includes homosexuality, to the protected classes. The amendment also would remove the six “federally protected activities” that a person must be participating in before being considered a victim of a hate crime. Those activities include employment and public-school attendance.
Opponents of the legislation say its drawbacks include violating the idea of equal protection under the law, increasing the authority and scope of the federal government to intervene in local issues and curbing free speech, including having a chilling effect on religious liberty by threatening those who teach homosexuality is a sin based on the Bible.
In April, President Clinton affirmed his 1997 endorsement of a similar bill. He also announced a public-private partnership to teach programs on tolerance, including of homosexuality, in the country’s middle schools.
Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, called the president’s effort “part of a larger strategy by the radical homosexual and lesbian movement.” Land said the effort would work against parents who teach their children homosexuality is unacceptable behavior but they should not hate homosexuals.
Twenty-one states and the District of Columbia have hate-crimes laws that include “sexual orientation,” according to the Human Rights Campaign, the country’s largest homosexual political organization.
Citizens may call their senators through the capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121.

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