WASHINGTON (BP)–Legislation extending rights to people based on homosexual behavior once again is making progress in Congress.
The Senate Judiciary Committee has approved a bill that would include “sexual orientation” among the classifications protected in federal hate-crimes laws in a 12-7 vote on the Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Act, S. 625.
In addition, a bill that would ban job discrimination based on “sexual orientation” has been introduced with strong support from members of the Senate. The Employment Nondiscrimination Act is S. 1276.
“Sexual orientation” is a category in the law that can encompass homosexuality, bisexuality and transsexuality.
It appears the hate-crimes bill will gain a comfortable majority if it reaches the Senate floor. It already had 51 cosponsors when it was introduced in March. The Senate approved a similar hate-crimes bill last year in a 57-42 vote. The language was stripped from a larger measure in a Senate-House conference committee, however.
When ENDA was reintroduced July 31, it had 40 cosponsors, according to a Reuters News Service report. In a previous session, ENDA failed to gain Senate passage by only a vote.
The House of Representatives is likely to offer more resistance to both measures.
The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and other pro-family organizations are opposed to such pieces of legislation that base civil rights on sexual behavior and that equate such behavior with unchangeable traits such as race and gender.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R.-Utah, attempted to strip “sexual orientation” from the hate-crimes bill in the Judiciary Committee’s action July 26, but his amendment failed on a 12-7 vote. The measure also would add gender and disability as protected categories to a law enacted more than 30 years ago.
Republican Sens. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and Mike DeWine of Ohio joined the committee’s Democrats in voting for the bill.
“The solution to hate crimes is to enforce the law impartially and firmly,” said Robert Knight, director of the Culture and Family Institute at Concerned Women for America. “Every citizen deserves equal protection under the law.
“Although well-intentioned, hate-crime laws such as S. 625 are seriously flawed,” Knight said in a written release. “They pave the way for unequal treatment under the law as well as the un-American concept of ‘thought crime,’ in which someone’s beliefs or thoughts are made illegal.”
Sen. Edward Kennedy, D.-Mass., is the chief sponsor of both ENDA and the hate-crimes bill.